New Study Finds Alzheimer’s Disease Misdiagnosed in 50% of Cases

A new study to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 63rd Annual Meeting April 9 to April 16, 2011, found that Alzheimer’s Disease was misdiagnosed in 50% of cases, according to a press release issued by the American Academy of Neurology on February 23, 2011.

The study was conducted at the Kuakini Medical System in Honolulu, Hawaii, and was supported and funded in part by the National Institute on Aging and the Department of Veterans Affairs.  In the study, researchers autopsied the brains of 426 Japanese-American men who were residents of Hawaii.  The subjects died at an average age of 87 years.  Of those 426 study subjects, 211 had been diagnosed with a dementia when they were alive, most commonly attributed to Alzheimer’s disease.

The study found that about 50% of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease did not have sufficient numbers of the brain lesions characterizing that condition to support the diagnosis.  Most of those in whom the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease was not confirmed had one or a combination of other brain lesions sufficient to explain the dementia. These included microinfarcts, Lewy bodies, hippocampal sclerosis or generalized brain atrophy, according to the American Academy of Neurology release.   Diagnoses of Lewy body dementia and vascular dementia, however, were found to be more accurate.

Misdiagnoses of Alzheimer’s increased with older age, and in those with mixed types of brain lesions or non-specific manifestations of dementia.  The misdiagnoses also reflected the ambiguity of most neuroimaging measures that currently are used in efforts to diagnose dementia in the elderly.

“Diagnosing specific dementias in people who are very old is complex, but with the large increase in dementia cases expected within the next 10 years in the United States, it will be increasingly important to correctly recognize, diagnose, prevent and treat age-related cognitive decline,” said study author Lon White, MD, MPH, with the Kuakini Medical System in Honolulu.

“Larger studies are needed to confirm these findings and provide insight as to how we may more accurately diagnose and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other principal dementing disease processes in the elderly,” said White. The study report, prepared for presentation at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Conference, is preliminary, and the research has not yet been subjected to the rigorous peer review required for publication in a scientific journal.

Read more about the study in the American Academy of Neurology’s press release » Alzheimer’s Disease May Be Easily Misdiagnosed — American Academy of Neurology.

For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease/ Dementia, see the Alzheimer’s/ Dementia pages on HelpingYouCare™ — including:

See also the Dementia Information Page of the NIH – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website.

Currently, there is no definitive means of diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease other than by autopsy after death.

Read about the status of current diagnostic methods and the importance of an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, in our article about a new type of early diagnostic method recently recommended for approval by the FDA Advisory Committee and now being tested » FDA Advisory Committee Recommends Approval of a New Brain Scan Test to Detect Alzheimers –


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