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MRI scan can diagnose Alzheimer's

3rd August 2005

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique is just as accurate as invasive scanning techniques in distinguishing Alzheimer's disease from frontotemporal dementia (FTD), according to a new study.

The study from the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center claimed that the non-invasive arterial spin scan is just as effective at showing the difference between the two diseases.

Study leader, Dr Norbert Schuff examined the amount of blood flow in the areas of the brain affected by the two diseases using the scans.

Frontotemporal dementia is a degenerative condition involving the front part of the brain, while Alzheimer's disease mainly affects the hippocampus and the temporal lobe.

When scanned areas of the brain with little blood flow indicated little activity, and therefore it could be determined which disease the patients suffered from.

Arterial spin successfully identified between Alzheimer's, FHD and people without dementia.

Currently patients are diagnosed by positron emission tomography (PET) and single proton emission computerised tomography (SPECT) which both involved injecting patients with radioactive tracers.

Dr Schuff said by diagnosing through MRI scans patients and healthcare systems would benefit.

"So if you can acquire blood flow information with MRI, that would be very beneficial. MRI is totally non-invasive, making it much safer for patients. It's more widely available, it's cheaper, and arterial spin labeling can be done in ten minutes together with a conventional MRI scan."