Alzheimer’s Disease: Blood Test, PET Scans And Other Diagnostic Tests

Alzheimer's disease is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Estimates show that deaths from the condition increased by 145 percent from 2000 to 2017 and the number may continue to grow.

The Alzheimer's Association said that the number of Americans living with the brain disorder may climb from 5.8 million people this year to nearly 14 million by 2050. In that same year, dementia is expected to cost $1.1 trillion. 

The rising number of people developing Alzheimer's disease would require increased focus on healthcare services for the condition. Diagnosis will also play an important role in reducing the burden in the community. 

Health experts said detecting Alzheimer's disease earlier could help give people access to wider options of treatments or programs. These should help reduce the effects of the condition and improve their quality of life. 

Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnostic Tests 

Amyloid Brain PET Scan

Amyloid brain PET (positron emission tomography) scan is one of the common tests recommended to see an individual’s risk of Alzheimer’s. This procedure, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), injects a radioactive dye attached to a molecule that sticks to amyloid plaques in the brain. 

A special imaging technology, similar to a CT scan, will then measure the radioactivity to see signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The PET scan can be helpful but there are some factors to consider before taking one. 

The procedure commonly costs nearly $5,000 and it does not provide straightforward diagnosis and treatment of memory loss, according to Andrew Budson, chief of cognitive and behavioral neurology at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.

Spinal Fluid Test

Doctors conduct spinal fluid tests mainly to confirm if an individual has Alzheimer’s disease or another type of brain condition. It helps provide the right treatment and avoid misdiagnosis. 

The test involves a lumbar puncture to get a spinal fluid. It may sound painful but the procedure is known to be safe. The doctor gives some numbing medicine and uses only a thin needle to take a small amount of spinal fluid. 

“Although it may sound frightening, it is actually a perfectly safe test,” Budson said in an article posted on Harvard Health Blog. “You simply sit or lie down on your side with your back to the doctor and curl into a little ball by bringing your shoulders down and your knees up.”

New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s

Detecting Alzheimer’s disease may soon be easier and faster. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recently discovered that a simple blood test could help determine signs of the condition. 

Alzheimer’s occurs due to formation of the beta-amyloid protein in the brain. The buildup eventually disrupts brain cells and causes damage, which could lead to symptoms of the disease. 

In the study, the research team measured beta-amyloid in the blood samples from 158 people. They found that the new blood test provided results very similar to the expensive amyloid brain PET scans. 

“This means that the new blood test may be extremely sensitive at detecting Alzheimer’s disease — that is, it results in few false negatives,” Budson said. 

senior Health experts expect to see more people with dementia over the coming years, with the current rate of one individual developing the condition every 65 seconds in the U.S. Pixabay