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Posted: March 12, 2004

Quick Test Can Aid in Alzheimer?s Diagnosis

Researchers have turned up a quick test for the elderly to help in the diagnosis of Alzheimer?s disease, according to the Alzheimer?s Association.

The test works best when coupled with aggressive emphasis by physicians to diagnose the mind-robbing disease. A quick, easy-to-administer test would encourage family doctors to test for Alzheimer?s more readily, the association said. Current testing techniques are long and involved.

The new test, highlighted in the February issue of the journal Neurology, involves observing some seemingly basic functions like these:

? The researchers found that individuals with Alzheimer's disease were 20 times more likely than those with no cognitive impairment to be able to name fewer than 15 animals in one minute.
? The study also suggested that the ability to name objects beginning with the letter "F" could be useful in distinguishing Alzheimer's disease from vascular dementia. Individuals who could name fewer than four objects beginning with "F" in one minute were significantly more likely to have vascular dementia.

The study included participants free of impairment, those diagnosed with either Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia, and another group with memory difficulties but without dementia.

"A single, quick diagnostic test for dementia would encourage doctors to more regularly check on the cognitive health of their patients to keep watch for changes that may indicate Alzheimer's disease, especially in older patients and those who express concerns about their memory," said William Thies, vice president, medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer's Association.

He added: "While this new research is interesting, the same detailed evaluation that has been recommended for decades is still what is recommended now."

The standard diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is made by reviewing a detailed medical history on the person and the results of several tests, including a complete physical and neurological examination, a psychiatric assessment and laboratory tests.

Alzheimer's can be diagnosed with 90% accuracy, but doctors often perceive it as a complex and time consuming process. A quick, easy-to-administer screening test would encourage use in the primary care environment where there are currently many recognized barriers to succl diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

"A quick, easyessfu-to-administer screening test would facilitate initial screening by family doctors at the primary care level. Referral to specialists and additional testing could then be done in a more timely and efficient fashion," Thies said.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, early diagnosis of Alzheimer's is important for reasons related to improving care and treatment and empowering people to participate fully in their lives.

For more information on this topic, check out these resources:
Alzheimer?s Association, visit or phone the 24-hour support line toll free at (800) 272-3900.

Neurology, abstract of journal article on this study (note: full text requires subscription) visit

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