House Call: Alzheimer’s Disease – Advanced Testing

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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among the elderly. 

Doctors at Wesley Long Hospital are the first in North Carolina to use a new imaging agent – Florbetapir -- in clinical practice for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease -- when more treatment options are available.  Florbetapir, which had been studied at Cone Health in a research trial, became available for clinical use in April 2012. 

Florbetapir identifies brain amyloid plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, which previously could only be confirmed at autopsy.  Florbetapir is injected into the patient’s bloodstream. It binds to the amyloid plaque in the brain associated with the disease, and a radioactive tracer in the agent allows it to be seen on a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

This is a very important tool for working with early-stage Alzheimer’s patients.  While a positive test alone doesn’t mean someone has Alzheimer’s, combining one with cognitive tests and family history can make an Alzheimer’s diagnosis more likely. 

Florbetapir’s main strength is that a negative test confidently rules out Alzheimer’s, which is a great relief to patients and allows physicians to search for other causes for cognitive decline.  Doctors are hopeful that Florbetapir will soon play a role in determining how well future Alzheimer’s therapies work.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Stewart Edmunds is a nuclear radiologist for Greensboro Radiology and a member of the Cone Health Medical Staff.  Dr. Edmunds is one of the first physicians in the state to research and begin using the new imaging agent, Florbetapir, in clinical practice for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis.  He is a 2002 graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina.  He completed his residency in diagnostic radiology at University of Virginia Health System, and a fellowship in nuclear radiology at Duke University Medical Center.