WEDNESDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests
that diagnosing Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia is
not always clear-cut, raising the possibility of misdiagnoses among
The finding is based on an analysis of brain autopsies, which
found that roughly half of those who had been diagnosed with
Alzheimer's before death did not, in fact, show evidence of the
right degree of brain lesions to support the diagnosis.
"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," study author Dr. Lon White, of the Kuakini Medical System in Honolulu, said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.
The findings, which were released Feb. 23, are scheduled to be
presented April 13 at the academy's annual meeting in Honolulu.
The researchers autopsied the brains of 426 Japanese American
residents of Hawaii who had been, on average, 87 years old when
they died. About half had been diagnosed with some form of
dementia, typically Alzheimer's.
Among those whose brain lesion profile did not confirm an
Alzheimer's diagnosis, the investigators did uncover evidence of
other forms of dementia, including Lewy body dementia, vascular
dementia, generalized brain atrophy and a range of non-specific
The chances of a misdiagnosis, the researchers found, appeared
to rise with the patient's age.
"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," White noted.
Experts note that research presented at meetings has not been
subjected to the same type of rigorous scrutiny given to research
published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
has more on