Alzheimer's Disease, and The Benefit of a Radiology Second Opinion

Posted on Sep 12, 2018

Radiology Imaging in Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Radiology imaging has become central to both the detection and ongoing research of Alzheimer's, as it's able to identify tell-tale signs of structural and functional cerebral alteration within the brain as well as allows us to visualize the molecular pathology of the disease. Imaging capabilities have established that there's a fairly large window of time in which you can detect the pathological effects of Alzheimer's disease (AD). "Brain imaging with MRI, SPECT, and PET can improve the accuracy of an AD diagnosis, apart from other potentially treatable causes of dementia. When PET results are combined with clinical criteria, the false positive rate in AD diagnoses can be reduced from 23% to 11%."

Getting a second opinion could lead to quicker realization and quicker treatment, or conversely, an immediate halt on unnecessary treatment from a misdiagnosis.

"Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases ." While it is largely found in patients that are 65 and older, there are still thousands of patients younger than 65 who have early-onset Alzheimer's. It's a progressive disease, with the beginning stages including inability to retain new information and later stages advancing to confusion, disorientation, and loss of normal functions such as walking and swallowing . Alzheimer's disease is the destruction of neurons in the brain and therefore is irreversible and worsens over time, eventually affecting nearly every aspect of life. As the damage spreads, the cells lose their ability to properly function, and once they die, they leave irreversible damage in the brain.

75% misdiagnose rate

Nearly 44 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's or a related dementia, yet only 1-in-4 people with the disease are getting properly diagnosed. The global cost of Alzheimer's and dementia is estimated to be $605 billion, which is equivalent to 1% of the entire world's gross domestic product." Specifically, in the U.S., it's projected that, between 2017 and 2025, every state could expect to see at least a 14% rise in the prevalence of Alzheimer's .

The value of a second opinion

Aimee Chagnon, MD, a private practice neurologist from California says, "It's not uncommon for people to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's and end up having Lewy body dementia, which is a combination of symptoms that look like Parkinson's disease but involve hallucinations and significant behavioral changes." She goes on to say, "The other thing we often see is people being diagnosed with Alzheimer's who actually have frontotemporal dementia. Normal pressure hydrocephalus (excessive fluid on the brain) is another condition that causes memory and balance problems that mimic Alzheimer's. The difference being that hydrocephalus can be treated when caught early on ."

A study published in April of 2010 titled "Second-Opinion Consultations in Neuroradiology" states that "offering second-opinion interpretations represents a major opportunity for neuroradiology services in tertiary care centers to improve patient care ." The findings presented in this study are reassuring to patients that second opinions are beneficial because, "the second-opinion consultation was more accurate than the outside interpretation in 84.0% of studies (163 of 194) ."

In addition to emotionally and physically taxing effects on misdiagnosed patients, there is the added aspect of medical costs for these misdiagnoses. Getting a second opinion will not only give you peace of mind but will also ensure that you have the right diagnosis, and the right treatment moving forward.

You can learn more about Neuroradiology second opinions here. DocPanel has a large number of academic and fellowship trained neuroradiologists who are experts in the diagnosis of Alzheimers and other neurologic diseases. Getting peace of mind and an accurate diagnosis has never been easier.

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