PET scans not recommended in many cases to determine Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease experts say having a brain scan done is not a good choice for many people who believe they may have the condition.

New guidelines published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia advise the use of positron emission tomography (PET) scans only for cases of progressive dementia for individuals under the age of 65, people who may have the disease but don’t display usual symptoms and those who have “persistent or progressive” memory problems, confusion and difficulty on cognitive tests.

The new guidelines were developed jointly by the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging and the Alzheimer’s Association. They cite the expense of PET scans, which can cost upwards of $6,000 and aren’t covered by many insurers to help diagnose Alzheimer’s, as one reason to limit the scans.

In addition, while scans are able to identify the growth of amyloid brain plaque, a hallmark of the disease, they can only suggest plaque’s presence, not definitively diagnose the condition.

“Amyloid imaging is not for every patient with Alzheimer’s disease or with memory problems or even the ‘worried well,'” Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., vice president for medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, told MedlinePlus. “Amyloid imaging is appropriate for select use and is really limited to increase certainty of a diagnosis when there are uncertain conditions.”

Under those circumstances, the scans may help doctors determine treatment for their patients. For instance, patients with ongoing memory and other cognitive problems may be able to glean from the scans that they are dealing with Alzheimer’s. However, if no plaque shows up on the scan, their doctors will know to look for other causes and treatments for their problems.

One help may be dietary supplements that boost cognitive ability. EZ Melts Energy, Memory and Mood Enhancer from Dr. Newton’s Naturals are believed to lower homocysteine levels, which have been associated with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.