Experts call for a shake-up in criteria for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease

Criteria for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease needs a shake-up to bring it in line with the latest knowledge in the field, an international group of experts has claimed.

Existing criteria have not been updated since 1984 when the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke–Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders advised doctors to diagnose dementia according to functional disability before specifying a cause.

But a team of experts from the UK, France, Canada, US, Japan and The Netherlands say it is time for high-tech diagnoses of Alzheimer’s to become standard.

To be diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s, patients should show progressive memory loss for longer than six months, say the researchers. They must also meet at least one of the biomarker criteria, which include atrophy on magnetic resonance imaging; abnormal biomarker proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid; a specific pattern of positron emission tomography in the brain; and a genetic mutation for Alzheimer’s within the immediate family.

Validation studies are now needed to optimize the sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of the criteria, say the researchers.

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