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Neurologists Like New Alzheimer’s Scan, If …

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Of leading neurologists surveyed for an article in the current issue of the the Journal of Alzheimer’s Diseasemore than 83 percent of those who responded said they would use a newly approved brain scan imaging agent to evaluate their patients for Alzheimer’s disease—if health insurance covered the procedure.

Beta-amyloid scans typically cost more than $3,000. So far, neither Medicare nor private insurance companies cover them. Eran Klein, MD, PhD, lead author of the article, said in a news release:

As with all new medical technologies, cost will undoubtedly be an important factor in initial uptake of amyloid imaging.

He continued: “Nonetheless, it is clear from our survey that experts in the field of dementia currently see clinical value in testing for brain amyloid and plan to add it to their tools for understanding and diagnosing Alzheimer’s dementia.” Dr. Klein is an assistant professor of neurology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. He was quoted in an OHSU news release.

Back in April, the Food and Drug Administration approved florbetapir (marketed by Eli Lilly under the name Amyvid) as an imaging agent to detect beta-amyloid deposits in brains. It contains the radioisotope fluorine-18, which binds to beta-amyloid plaque and can be detected by PET. Beta amyloid is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and is believed to begin accumulating in the brain a decade or more before onset of detectable cognitive impairment.

A beta-amyloid scan is not conclusive. PET results provide sensitivity and specificity of about 83 to 90 percent, according to Health Imaging. A negative result probably rules out Alzheimer’s, but a positive result doesn’t necessarily mean the patient has, or ever will develop, the disease.

The survey was conducted among neurologists who practiced at U.S. medical schools and specialized in dementia. It took place shortly before the FDA approval of florbetapir. Most of the neurologists said they’d use the scan as an adjunct—to either bolster or disprove a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Younger neurologists were more interested than their more seasoned colleagues. All of the survey respondents with less than five years’ experience in practice said they planned to use the scan, while 70 percent of those with 20 or more years in practice said they planned to do so.

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Brain scans of children just 7 months old can predict later language abilities, finds a new study. For details, see our Facebook page.

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One Response to “Neurologists Like New Alzheimer’s Scan, If …”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Alzheimer’s PET Imaging Agent Hits Roadblock on January 31st, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    […] last week, when we reported on a survey indicating that neurologists would likely use a newly approved brain scan imaging agent to evaluate […]