Dementia Now Easier to Diagnose

St. Louis,

​​​​​Are you or is someone you know having trouble with memory, completing familiar tasks or 

​David Brummett, MD, Neuroradiologist  at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital  and JCMGeven carrying on a conversation?  If so, you or this person might be suffering from dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease. Dementia, by definition, is the loss of mental ability severe enough to interfere with normal activities of daily living. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases and is the fourth leading cause of death in individuals over 65 years of age.

Dementia is a serious condition that affects the person suffering from the disease and often has a serious emotional and even financial impact on family members and friends caring for the person.  It is a common condition impacting nearly 40 million people worldwide and 5 million people in the United States.  The number one risk factor for dementia is age, therefore it is more common among the elderly.   Nearly 15 percent of people over 65 and more than 50 percent of people over 85 suffer from some form of dementia.  

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital recently started a new brain imaging study called a positron emission tomography or PET scan of the brain to evaluate for dementia.  This exam will allow earlier detection and more accurate diagnosis of certain f​orms of dementia.  By diagnosing the disease earlier and making the correct diagnosis, the treatment for the disorder can be more targeted and effective.  

The PET brain scan examination only takes about 15 minutes to complete.  It consists of imaging the brain with the PET-CT scanner.  A form of sugar called FDG is injected into a person’s vein and then used by the brain.  The person’s brain is then imaged with the PET scanner to determine how the brain processes the FDG.  A special computer program called Neuro-Q aids the radiologist, the person who reads the study, with interpretation of the exam.  The Neuro-Q program separates the PET images of the brain into 240 different regions and then allows the patient’s brain to be compared to a database made by examining thousands of other patients.  The Neuro-Q program increases the accuracy of the diagnosis of dementia to around 90 percent, which is about a 30 percent improvement from the standard clinical methods used to diagnose dementia.  

The examination can be ordered by your primary care provider or by a brain specialist called a neurologist.  

While a cure for dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, has not yet been found, earlier treatment does allow the person suffering from this disorder to maintain more normal function longer and the medical treatments are more effective when given early in the disease.  Having the diagnosis early also allows the patient and their family to plan for their future with the disease.

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