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Alzheimer’s, Dementia Often Misdiagnosed

Misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementing illnesses appears to be relatively common, a critical problem as the population ages and as new therapeutic techniques offer hope to various forms of cognitive decline.

“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,” said Lon White, M.D., M.P.H., with the Kuakini Medical System in Honolulu, author of a study examining the diagnoses.

For the study, researchers autopsied the brains of 426 Japanese-American men who were residents of Hawaii, and who died at an average age of 87 years.

Of those, 211 had been diagnosed with a dementia when they were alive, most commonly attributed to Alzheimer’s disease.

The study found that about half of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease did not have sufficient numbers of the brain lesions characterizing that condition to support the diagnosis.

Most of those in whom the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease was not confirmed had one or a combination of other brain lesions sufficient to explain the dementia. These included microinfarcts, Lewy bodies, hippocampal sclerosis or generalized brain atrophy.

However, diagnoses of Lewy body dementia and vascular dementia were more accurate. Misdiagnoses increased with older age.

They also reflected non-specific manifestations of dementia, a very high prevalence of mixed brain lesions, and the ambiguity of most neuroimaging measures.

“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,” said White.

The research is being released February 24 and will be presented as part of a plenary session at the American Academy of Neurology’s 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu April 9 to April 16, 2011.

The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Alzheimer’s, Dementia Often Misdiagnosed

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Alzheimer’s, Dementia Often Misdiagnosed. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/25/alzheimers-dementia-often-misdiagnosed/23898.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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