Brain Scan Alone Cannot Predict Likelihood of Dementia
David Knopman MD, Neurology, Mayo Clinic
DEAR MAYO CLINIC:
I am 64 and recently had a brain scan that detected signs of early dementia. My family doctor told me it is probably something I will begin to experience in the next five to 10 years. How accurate is this?
Although a brain scan can help identify changes in brain structure, results from a brain scan alone can't be used to diagnose dementia. And, even the best diagnostic imaging tools available today cannot predict if you will eventually develop signs and symptoms of dementia years down the road. Your case seems to require more conversation with your doctor to determine exactly what the brain scan showed and what the results mean.
Dementia isn't a specific disease. Instead, it's a clinical diagnosis. The term dementia describes a group of symptoms -- such as memory loss, impaired reasoning, inability to learn or remember new information, personality changes, or inappropriate behavior -- that affect a person's intellectual and social abilities enough to cause difficulty in performing daily activities.
Diagnosing dementia typically involves reviewing an individual's medical history and conducting a physical exam. In addition, tests that measure cognitive function -- attention, memory, language and spatial skills, among others -- are usually part of a diagnostic assessment of dementia, along with a neurological evaluation. This is done to investigate the cause and extent of signs and symptoms that have already appeared in someone who is having difficulty with, for example, memory, thinking, reasoning or daily functioning.
Dementia has a variety of possible causes, including progressive disorders like Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body dementia, as well as reversible conditions, such as infections, immune disorders and nutritional deficiencies, among many others.
Because dementia is caused by conditions that affect the brain or alter brain structure, brain scans can be helpful in diagnosis. Brain scans allow your doctor to see changes in the brain, such as brain shrinkage, as well as visible abnormalities, such as blood clots, strokes or tumors, that can help identify the underlying cause of dementia. But even if you have changes within your brain, if you aren't experiencing any signs or symptoms of dementia, then those brain changes don't really tell us anything about whether you will eventually develop dementia.
Currently, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the best tool we have to visualize brain structure. MRI is a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues in your body. Yet even these advanced scans are not helpful in predicting who will get dementia five or 10 years from now.
I cannot speculate on what your physician saw on your brain scan. It's possible that brain changes were evident, but conclusions regarding dementia cannot be drawn from a brain scan alone. I'd encourage you to follow up with your doctor to discuss the results of the brain scan in more detail and find out exactly what it showed and what the findings mean. Alternatively, you could obtain the results of the brain scan from your doctor and review them with a neurologist who could provide another perspective on your situation. --
Medical Edge from
Available at Amazon.com:
- Is It Better to Stop Smoking Abruptly or Gradually?
- Brain Scan Alone Cannot Predict Likelihood of Dementia
- Is Sunscreen Dangerous? 4 Sun Protection Dos And Don'ts
- Low Platelet Count Not Necessarily Reason to Postpone Surgery
- Could Swimming in Cool Water Cause a Heart Attack?
- Bringing Psoriasis Under Control
- Best Summer Foods for Sensitive Stomachs
- Fight the Common Mold Allergy
- Largest Ever Cell Phone Cancer Study is Inconclusive
- Treating Early-Stage Esophageal Cancer
- TNF Inhibitors Offer Relief to Those With Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Prostate Exam Good First Stop When PSA Levels Increase
- 7 Nasty Germs That Could Land Your Kid in the Hospital And How to Avoid Them
- Secondhand Smoke A Serious Public and Personal Health Problem
- What to do About Excessive Belching and Feeling Full?
- Chest Pain: A Heart Attack or Something Else?
- Screening Plays Key Role in Detecting Polyps Before They Become Cancerous
- Learn How to Read Supplement Labels
- Compression-Only CPR Can Replace Conventional CPR in Many Circumstances
- Diabetes: Could You Have Diabetes and Not Know It
- Fighting Inflammation with Food
- Cortisone Injections Unlikely to Have Negative Affect on Bones
- Bad Health Habits Rob Years From Life Span
- The Importance of Decreasing Dietary Sodium
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Takes Your Breath Away
- 7 Ways to Prevent Heart Disease
- Hypotension or Stiff Arteries May Cause Low Diastolic Blood Pressure
- Is It OK to Travel to a High Altitude With High Blood Pressure?
- Existing Drugs to Treat Herpes Are Very Effective
- Dry Mouth Can Be a Serious Problem
- 6 Simple Ways to Improve Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
- All About Gout: Old Disease Becoming More Common
- Frequent Monitoring Critical to Effectively Manage Scleroderma
- How to Identify Suicide Risk Before It's Too Late
- Tips for Natural Allergy Relief
- Inflammation May Play Role in Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Bouncing Back After Being Sick
- Nicotine Patch May Offer Some Benefit to Ulcerative Colitis
- Common Myths and Misconceptions About Diabetes
- Vitamin E Supplements Not Recommended for Those With Diabetes
- Tick-Borne Disease Risk Peaks in Spring and Summer
- Meibomitis Creates Receptive Environment for Bacteria
- Top 4 Seasonal Allergy Mistakes
- Stress Less: Ten Strategies That Work
- Paralyzed Limbs Revived by Hacking Into Nerves
- Can Acid Reflux Damage my Esophagus
- Treadmill Test Can Reveal Hidden Problems in Heart
- Suffering From Allergies? Tailor Treatment to Your Symptoms
- Researchers Break Through to Unconscious Patients
- Key Factors Related to Heart Attack Risk
- Type 2 Diabetes Increases Risk for Cardiovascular Problems
- Hypochondria: The Impossible Illness
- Surgeries Can be Combined But May Not be Necessary
- Is Heartburn Surgery the Answer?
- Best Cooking Methods for Heartburn Sufferers
- 14 Things You Might Not Know About Aspirin
Copyright © 2010 R. Mayo Clinic. All rights reserved.