Special MRI Correctly Diagnoses Alzheimer's Without Spinal Tap


The size of a spinal needle depends on the size of the body it is entering: image via medquarterly.co.ukThe size of a spinal needle depends on the size of the body it is entering: image via medquarterly.co.ukNothing induces quite as much fear in a patient as the words 'spinal tap' or 'lumbar puncture,' a test used to resolve diagnosis in many neurological diseases. One disease that can be absolutely diagnosed by lumbar puncture is Alzheimer's disease, and the test is currently used to distinguish it from other neurological diseases, such as Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD), that commonly appear with consequent dementia. But a new MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) model that distinguishes the two diseases may prove critical to the success of future focused treatment...

...enabling early and faster diagnoses, larger clinical trials, and better targeted drug therapies - without the dreaded spinal tap.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine: image via alliedhealthworld.comMagnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine: image via alliedhealthworld.comThe MRI model that can make a distinction between Alzheimer's disease and the commonly misdiagnosed group of diseases known as Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD) was developed by neurology researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The test clearly differentiated Alzheimer's from FTLD in 75 percent of the study subjects.  In the approximate 25 percent of borderline subjects, the lumbar puncture would still be necessary to obtain and analyse cerebrospinal fluid for disease markers, but as a substantial portion of the affected groups can be diagnosed quickly, relatively easily, and for less cost, the differential MRI model is a very useful tool.

As more and more drugs are being developed that target biomarkers of disease rather than symptoms of disease, this MRI prediction method will likely serve as a model for future differential diagnoses research.

This research is published in the early edition of Neurology.


Penn Medicine via MedXpress


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Dec 30, 2012
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Great news!

Great news, but does the new machine's dial go to 11?