Cone Health Doctors First in State to Use New Clinical Alzheimer’s Test - Cone Health

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Published on July 06, 2012

Cone Health Doctors First in State to Use New Clinical Alzheimer’s Test

Doctors at Wesley Long Hospital are the first in North Carolina to use a new imaging agent – Florbetapir -- in clinical practice for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease -- when more treatment options are available. Florbetapir, which had been studied at Cone Health in a research trial, became available for clinical use just last month.

“Florbetapir identifies brain amyloid plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, which previously could only be confirmed at autopsy,” says Dr. Stewart Edmunds, director of nuclear radiology for Greensboro Radiology.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among the elderly. There is no cure for this progressive neurodegenerative disorder which destroys memories and thinking skills. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s. It is the 6th leading cause of death.

“This is a very important tool for working with early-stage Alzheimer’s patients,” says Dr. Pramod Sethi, director of research at Guilford Neurologic Associates. “While a positive test alone doesn’t mean someone has Alzheimer’s, combining one with cognitive tests and family history can make an Alzheimer’s diagnosis more likely.”

Florbetapir is injected into the patient’s bloodstream. It binds to the amyloid plaque in the brain associated with the disease. A radioactive tracer in the agent allows it to be seen on a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. “We have had excellent success with this new imaging agent and are very excited to offer it to clinicians and their patients,” Edmunds says. “From an imaging standpoint, Florbetapir exceeds any imaging we have in looking at Alzheimer’s disease.”

Edmunds believes that Florbetapir’s main strength is that a negative test confidently rules out Alzheimer’s, which is a great relief to patients and allows physicians to search for other causes for cognitive decline.

Edmunds and Sethi are hopeful that Florbetapir will play a role in determining how well future Alzheimer’s therapies work. “Early diagnosis with Florbetapir can have several potential uses but mostly will help us identify patients earlier when future treatments may be more effective than at later stages,” says Sethi.

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