ARRS: PET/CT helps identify early-onset Alzheimers disease

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CHICAGO—PET/CT can help identify cognitive reserve in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and may help effectively detect early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, according to a presentation on May 2 at the annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS).

“Although early-onset Alzheimer’s dementia is quite rare, it can be devastating to the patients that carry the diagnosis,” said Jacob Richard Hodge, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Early-onset AD often has a more aggressive course and progression than AD.

Multiple studies have suggested that patients with late-onset AD and advanced education exhibit a "cognitive reserve," thereby slowing the time of transition and rate of progression from mild cognitive impairment to frank AD.

Hodge and colleagues undertook the current study to determine whether quantitative PET could identify the cognitive reserve in early-onset AD patients.

The researchers evaluated PET/CT studies in 91 patients under age 65 to see if this cognitive reserve could be identified with early-onset AD.

In patients presenting with similar clinical severities of the disease, researchers for this study discovered a "cognitive reserve," which slowed the outward expression of symptoms. "Our research demonstrates that those patients with increasing education are better able to cope with the disease pathology before they express the symptoms of Alzheimer's dementia," Hodge said.

Additionally, researchers replicated previously published data using PET/CT examinations, and they were able to detect significant abnormalities in patients with early-onset AD, thereby supporting its usefulness with younger patients.

“Alzheimer’s dementia is often not suspected in younger patients,” Hodge explained. “Therefore, PET/CT brain imaging can be helpful in the diagnosis.”