by Terry A. Rondberg, DC
Research shows that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementing illnesses are often misdiagnosed in the elderly, leading to incorrect treatment and medications.That is the conclusion of a study presented as part of a plenary session at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting in April.
“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 study author Lon White, MD, MPH, with the Kuakini Medical System in Honolulu.
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. In most of these cases, however, the patient had been treated – incorrectly – for Alzheimer’s, based on the misdiagnosis.
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 Dr. White.
SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, press release, Feb. 23, 2011
(Dr. Terry A. Rondberg is founder and President of the World Chiropractic Alliance and publisher emeritus of The Chiropractic Journal. Developer of Bioenergy Therapy, he brings cutting edge wellness care to clients at his Temecula Wellness Center in California.)