By the way, doctor: Can brain scans be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease?

Can brain scans be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease?

Q. Is there a brain scan that can specifically diagnose Alzheimer's disease?

A. As of late 2005, there is no diagnostic scan for Alzheimer's disease. Currently, the first step in making the diagnosis is testing to determine the type and extent of the person's dementia. These cognitive tests consist of a series of questions designed to assess short-term recall, spatial sense, and other basic elements of thinking. The one that's used most often is called the Mini-Mental State Examination.

After that exam, diagnosis is mainly a process of elimination. Doctors order a battery of blood tests to rule out anemia, low levels of thyroid hormone, vitamin B12 deficiency, and other conditions that might cause confused or clouded thinking. A CT or MRI scan might be ordered to make sure the person doesn't have a tumor, damage from a stroke, or a brain injury of some other kind.

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