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Br J Radiol. 2007 Dec;80 Spec No 2:S71-7. doi: 10.1259/bjr/33117326.

Role of imaging techniques in the diagnosis of dementia.

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  • 1Newcastle University, Institute for Ageing and Health, Wolfson Research Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. j.t.o'


Dementia is a common and growing problem, affecting 5% of the over 65 s and 20% of the over 80s. The recent availability of new treatments for dementia, as well as the importance of subtype-specific management, has renewed interest in the use of brain imaging techniques that can assist in the accurate recognition of Alzheimer's disease (AD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), vascular dementia (VaD) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Structural imaging, historically used to exclude an intracerebral lesion as a cause for dementia, is increasingly playing a role in "ruling in" diagnoses, with atrophy of the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex an early and sensitive marker for AD, and cortical and subcortical infarcts and white matter lesions characteristic of VaD. Regionally distinct patterns of hypoperfusion on single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) or hypometabolism on positron emission tomography (PET) can help differentiate FTD, AD and VaD, and dopaminergic loss in the basal ganglia can differentiate DLB from AD. Newer techniques show great promise to detect specific neuroreceptor changes as well as pathological underpinnings of dementia, such as amyloid and tau pathology.

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