First-Of-Its-Kind Study Demonstrates Clinical Impact of Amyloid PET Imaging

Amyloid PET imaging is a diagnostic technique that determines whether patients with memory complaints have amyloid plaques in the brain, an indicator of Alzheimer's disease. It represents a potential major advance in the assessment of those with cognitive impairment. Before amyloid PET, these plaques could only be detected by examining the brain at autopsy.

Early diagnoses enable physicians to prescribe appropriate symptom-management therapies, counsel families on important safety and care-planning issues and direct people to clinical trials for promising new drugs. PET imaging results that reveal no signs of amyloid buildup in the brain rule out Alzheimer's disease as the cause of memory loss, which can prompt an evaluation for alternative and sometimes reversible causes, such as medication side effects, sleep or mood disorders and other medical conditions.

The four year, multicenter Imaging Dementia – Evidence for Amyloid Scanning (IDEAS) study of more than 11,000 Medicare beneficiaries, published April 2, 2019 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), revealed that providing clinicians with the results of positron emission tomography (PET) scans that identify amyloid plaques in the brain changed medical management in nearly two-thirds of cases. The technique also altered the diagnosis of the cause of cognitive impairment in more than one in three study participants.

"We are impressed by the magnitude of these results, which make it clear that amyloid PET imaging can have a major impact on how we diagnose and care for patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of cognitive decline," says Gil Rabinovici, MD, study lead author, principal investigator and professor of Neurology at the UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center.

The study was managed by the American College of Radiology and led by scientists at the Alzheimer's Association, UC San Francisco, Brown University School of Public Health, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Public Health, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, UC Davis School of Medicine, and the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

"This is a landmark study and a major advance for the field of nuclear medicine," says Robert Flavell, MD, PhD, assistant professor in Nuclear Medicine at UCSF Radiology. "The results of this study provide sound, significant evidence that amyloid PET imaging is an important tool for better medical management and improved diagnostic accuracy of Alzheimer's Disease."

UCSF Radiology's scientists and physicians are recognized world leaders in the translation of Alzheimer's research to clinical care. We offer Alzheimer's disease assessment with amyloid PET scanning for patients with memory complaints.

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