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Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Message Board


Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Board Index


There is a lot of data on-line. I don't think we're allowed to link to other sites, but here is data about the different types of diagnostic brain-scans that I've cut and pasted from a common medical web site. That particular site lists other laboratory tests, such as the different types of blood work, and the illnesses that are being weeded out through the diagnostic process. Our Sunday paper last week had a magazine insert that showed atrophy of an Alzheimers' patient's brain compared to a healthy brain. One of my husband's doctors showed us certain Alzheimers-related changes on his MRI. Diagnostic methods continue to improve and are now at >90% accuracy.

One of the benefits of having a clear diagnosis of early onset Alzheimers was that my husband was able to qualify for Social Security disability (thank heaven -- I suppose there's always a silver lining, if you look really, really, really, really hard).

Cut & pasted info:

Computed Tomography (CT or CAT) scan

A computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan is a technique in which multiple X-rays of the body are taken from different angles in a very short period of time. These images are then fed into a computer, which creates a series of images that look like "slices" through the body. CT scans can show certain changes that are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease in its later stages. These changes include a reduction in the size of the brain, referred to as atrophy.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a test that produces very clear pictures, or images, of the human body without using X-rays. Instead, MRI uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce these images. MRI is beneficial in ruling out other causes of dementia, such as tumors or strokes. It also may help to show the structural and functional changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Electroencephalography (EEG)

Electroencephalography (EEG) is a medical technique that measures brain function by analyzing the electrical activity generated by the brain. This activity is measured through special electrodes applied to the scalp. EEG can be used repeatedly in adults and children with virtually no risks and is helpful in diagnosing brain disorders. EEG is often used to study various brain processes, such as perception, memory, language, and emotion, and is most helpful in identifying disorders which can mimic Alzheimer's disease.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a recording of the heart's electrical activity. This activity is registered as a graph or series of wavy lines on a moving strip of paper. This gives the doctor important information about the heart. For example, it can show the heart's rate and rhythm. It also can help show decreased blood flow, enlargement of the heart, or the presence of damage due to a current or past heart attack. This test may be used by the doctor to help rule out other conditions that may be causing symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer's disease.

Neuropsychological Testing

Neuropsychological testing studies the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is used when the patient is having serious problems with memory, concentration, remembering words and names, understanding language, and a variety of other symptoms. These tests help in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect thinking, emotion, and behavior. These include Alzheimer's disease, various psychiatric problems, like depression and anxiety, problems caused by medicines, substance abuse, strokes, and tumors. Neuropsychological tests accompany a comprehensive interview with the patient and may include tests to assess memory, language, the ability to plan and reason, and the ability to modify behavior, as well as assessments of personality and emotional stability. Neuropsychological testing also can help the doctor and family better understand the effect of a disorder on a patient's everyday functioning.

There are additional tests that may be done to help diagnose and monitor the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The following tests are not done routinely and are more often used for research purposes:

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

PET scanning is a three-dimensional imaging technique that allows a doctor to examine the heart, brain or other internal organs. PET scans also can show how the organs are functioning; unlike X-ray, CT or MRI, which show only body structure. PET is particularly useful for the detection of cancer and coronary artery disease and can provide information to pinpoint and evaluate diseases of the brain. PET imaging can show the region of the brain that is causing a patient to have seizures and is useful in evaluating brain diseases like Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's. PET scans can show the difference in brain activity between a normal brain and one affected by Alzheimer's disease; it can also help differentiate Alzheimer's disease from other forms of dementia.

Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) Scan

SPECT is a technique for creating very clear, three-dimensional pictures of a major organ, such as the brain or heart. SPECT scans involve the injection of a very small amount of a radioactive substance. Energy from the radioactive substance in the body is detected by a special camera, which then takes the pictures. SPECT can be used to see how blood flows in certain regions of the brain and is useful in evaluating specific brain functions. This may reveal abnormalities that are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Imaging (MRSI)

MRSI is a test that allows the doctor to observe certain substances throughout the brain without the use of radioactive materials. MRSI is an imaging technique that is used to study changes caused by brain tumors, strokes, seizure disorders, Alzheimer's disease, depression, and other diseases affecting the brain.


Reviewed by the doctors at the The Cleveland Clinic Neuroscience Center.

Edited by Tracy Shuman, MD, October 2005.

SOURCE: The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation


Portions of this page The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2004





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