Among the many, often nerve-racking reasons people get an MRI, Alzheimer’s is one of them. For older people, MRI scans can be a potent tool for investigating whether or not someone has dementia. Given the ongoing research advances and the increasingly sophisticated use of MRI, getting an MRI scan is a key method used to differentiate between different kinds of dementia and to help doctors determine whether someone may have Alzheimer’s.
What is an MRI meant to reveal about Alzheimer’s?
Typically, MRI isn’t the only diagnostic tool used to detect Alzheimer’s. Information is gathered through multiple methods, including discussions with doctors about symptoms, cognitive and neurological tests, MRI or CT, genetic tests, and lumbar punctures (also known as spinal taps). The lumbar punctures are meant to collect cerebrospinal fluid, to see if there’s a presence of certain proteins that might indicate that someone has Alzheimer’s; the problem with lumbar punctures, however, is that patients are understandably unenthusiastic about having a doctor stick a needle into their spine.
A recent research study holds out some promise that maybe in the future we’ll be able to rely less on lumbar punctures and more on MRIs for diagnosing Alzheimer’s. Researchers analyzed scan images for different kinds of patterns in the brain structures they saw. They were especially concerned about being able to differentiate between Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), another neurological condition that has overlapping symptoms with Alzheimer’s. It seems that, in this study at least, they were able to successfully determine whether or not a patient has Alzheimer’s most of the time, by looking at the scan.
MRI is also useful in diagnosing Alzheimer’s by ruling out other reasons a person may be experiencing Alzheimer’s-related symptoms; a brain tumor or a stroke, for instance, could also lead to forgetfulness, changes in personality, difficulty planning and problem-solving, poorer judgment, and difficulties with language. And as researchers figure out increasingly sophisticated ways of analyzing the scans for patterns that suggest Alzheimer’s, it may become an even more powerful tool.
Scheduling an MRI because you suspect that you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s is a stressful experience. Ideally, you’ll have the assistance of top-notch doctors and a warm and professional medical staff to explain the procedure to you and address your concerns. Don’t hesitate to contact us with further questions about MRI scans, and to make an appointment for one, as needed, at our high-quality medical facility. Our scans will help you better plan for the future and determine what kinds of care you need.