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  • Jacki Meinhardt, NP

Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a form a dementia that robs millions of people each year of critical thinking capabilities that are needed to live a healthy and happy life. The statistics are staggering in both number of lives affected by the disease and the cost of caring for those individuals.

The Alzheimer’s Association latest figures are:

  • 5.4 million Americans are living with the disease;

  • Two-thirds of those with the disease are women;

  • Of Americans aged 65 and over, 1 in 8 has Alzheimer’s;

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older;

  • In 2011, the cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s to American society will total an estimated $183 billion;

  • In 2016, 15.9 million family and friends provided 18 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The Alzheimer’s Association, National Institute on Aging and National Institutes of Health developed new criteria and guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. The new criterion expands the definition of Alzheimer’s to include two phases of the disease:

(1) pre-symptomatic

(2) mildly symptomatic but pre-dementia,

(3) dementia cause by Alzheimer’s.

This reflects current thinking that Alzheimer’s begins creating distinct and measurable changes in the brain of affected people years, perhaps decades, before memory and thinking symptoms are noticeable.

Early detection of Alzheimer’s has benefits to both physicians and patients. Early diagnosis allows the physician to educate the patient of the various treatment options available to them, and the patient will have an understanding of what is happening, and therefore, will be able to evaluate their options and plan for their future. While there is no definitive test for early detection of Alzheimer’s, there is now a diagnostic test using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a special post-processing volumetric software. This program, called NeuroQuant, is the first of its kind available to assist diagnosis.

The brain MRI without contrast with NeuroQuant analysis has the ability to identify changes in the size, shape and weight of the brain regions allowing for real time volumetric analysis. This type of scan allows for the the provider to assess her patient with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) at baseline and over time to provide improved predictive prognosis in MCI. Increased rates of change in AD-related regions may increase confidence in a diagnosis of early AD, and allow for staging of the Alzheimer's disease.


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