Background: The clinical diagnosis of dementia continues to be flawed. Although the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is better than 90% at research centers in highly selected patients, the diagnosis of patients with non-AD dementias and atypical AD patients is poor. Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is a functional imaging technique touted as a diagnostic technique for the degenerative disorders. However there have been few clinicopathological studies using SPECT.
Methods: Twenty-seven consecutive dementia patients were evaluated clinically at a University-based specialty dementia clinic, and a diagnosis of a specific dementia was made. SPECT imaging was used in helping to select a clinical diagnosis. The correlations between clinical, SPECT and autopsy diagnoses were analyzed.
Results: Single photon emission computed tomography predicted pathologic diagnosis in 25 of 27 patients with dementia (92.6%), compared with clinical diagnosis, which was confirmed in 20/27 (74.1%). Distinct patterns were associated with dementia caused by AD, Fronto-Temporal Dementia (FTD), and Jakob-Creutzfeldt Disease (JCD). Vascular insults not seen with computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were found with SPECT. Three different pathologies were found in patients with Parkinsonian-Dementias (PD): Lewy-Body Variant of AD, Diffuse Lewy-bodies without plaques, and substantia nigra neuronal loss without plaques or Lewy-bodies. All showed a temporal-parietal pattern with SPECT that was similar to AD.
Conclusion: SPECT provides useful positive information in dementia, particularly the differentiation of AD, FTD, and JCD. However, it does not distinguish PD from AD.