Functional brain imaging with single-photon emission computed tomography in the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease


High-resolution single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) with brain-retained technetium-99m (99mTc)-labeled tracers may be used for 3-dimensional measurements of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF). This article summarizes important findings in SPECT studies of Alzheimer's disease (AD). There are three distinct potential applications of SPECT in diagnosing AD: (a) as a diagnostic adjunct in patients with mild cognitive or behavioral symptoms, suggesting a possible dementia disorder; (b) as a diagnostic adjunct for demented patients in whom the history, physical examination, and laboratory studies are in agreement with a diagnosis of probable AD; and (c) for determining the relative contributions of degenerative and vascular pathology to the clinical picture in demented patients with mixed disease. A clinical diagnosis of probable AD is associated with focal perfusion deficits as measured by SPECT. Characteristically, hypoperfusion is observed in the frontal and temporoparietal association areas, whereas other brain regions are relatively spared. The changes are present in the early phases of AD. The topography of rCBF deficits displays a marked heterogeneity among patients and correlates with cognitive profiles. In patients with mild cognitive complaints, the presence of focal hypoperfusion on SPECT may increase the accuracy of the diagnosis by confirming the presence of brain disease. In patients with probable AD, the presence of temporoparietal rCBF deficits on SPECT increases the accuracy of the clinical diagnosis, in particular when associated with medial temporal lobe atrophy on cranial X-ray computed tomography (CT). The role of SPECT in diagnosing patients with mixed disease remains to be clarified.

TidsskriftInternational Psychogeriatrics
Vol/bind9 Suppl 1
Sider (fra-til)223-7; discussion 247-52
StatusUdgivet - 1997


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