MRI plus PET helps to predict Alzheimer's

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Combining MRI, fluorine 18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography and cerebrospinal fluid analysis can help doctors predict whether patients with mild cognitive impairment will fully develop Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at Duke University. New Alzheimer treatments can be effective at the early stages of the disease, but Alzheimer's is difficult to diagnose and researchers have been looking for ways to improve its early detection.

"In people with mild memory complaints, our accuracy is barely better than chance," study co-author P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke, said, according to an announcement. "Given that the definitive gold standard for diagnosing Alzheimer's is autopsy, we need a better way to look into the brain."

In the study, published online Dec. 11 in the journal Radiology, researchers analyzed FDG-PET and MRI studies for 97 subjects with mild cognitive impairment. Patient data was collected from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a nationwide study that gathers information from hundreds of patients with varying levels of cognitive impairment.

According to the researchers, the subjects participated in clinical cognitive testing, underwent the three exams, and were seen by physicians for as long as four years.

"This study marks the first time these diagnostic tests have been used together to help predict the progression of Alzheimer's," said Jeffrey Petrella, an associate professor of radiology at Duke Medicine and study co-author. "If you use all three biomarkers, you get a benefit above that of the pencil-and-paper neuropsychological tests used by doctors today. Each of these tests adds new information by looking at Alzheimer's from a different angle."

To learn more:
- see the abstract in Radiology
- see the announcement

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