PET Scans Receive the Green Light for Alzheimer’s Screening

By: Andr??a Stanford

Healthcare practitioners can now add PET (positron emission tomography) scans to their arsenal of clinical tools for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.   

New guidelines, which now equip physicians with criteria for using this technology to detect cognitive impairments, were jointly issued this week by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.

Researchers at Pitt pioneered the usage of PET scans to detect amyloid deposits, which are the primary types of brain plaque associated with Alzheimer’s.  Led by William Klunk,M.D., Ph.D., and professor of psychiatry at the University Of Pittsburgh, researchers developed the radioactive drug Pittsburgh Compound B to illustrate these deposits in the brain. 

“Many years of research went into the first human studies, and we’ve had a decade of research beyond that so there are other imaging agents besides the one currently approved that will probably be coming on the market,” Dr. Klunk said.

According to the new guidelines, appropriate candidates for amyloid imaging include:

  • Patients with persistent or inexplicable mild cognitive impairment.
  • Patients who meet core clinical diagnostic criteria for possible  Alzheimer’s disease, but whose symptoms are abnormal.
  • Patients with progressive dementia beginning at age 65 or younger.

Conversely, patient scenarios were also outlined for which the new technology would not be suitable. These ranged from confirming an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in patients over 65 who display clear symptoms of the disorder, to mitigating concerns in healthy individuals with a family history of dementia.  

Ultimately, amyloid imaging can be beneficial in diagnosing patients with Alzheimer’s; however, this tool must be used in conjunction with other clinical assessments, and it must be performed according to standardized protocols by trained staff.

Visit MedPage Today to learn more about the imaging guidelines.