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Alzheimer's Research Aimed at Early Detection


The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that by 2030 the number of Frederick County residents with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to increase by 48%. According to Cathy Hanson, Program Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Greater Maryland Chapter, the earlier these patients are diagnosed, the better their treatment will be. “Existing treatments are most beneficial if started early,” she said. “But research tells us that patients wait an average of three years from the onset of symptoms before they get a diagnosis. That is precious time that could be used for early treatment.”

Thanks to the new Imaging Dementia Evidence for Amyloid Scanning (IDEAS) Study, those who are being evaluated for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can contribute to a national study that may lead to key advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive impairment.

Frederick Memorial Hospital’s Imaging Services Department is the only registered specialist site in Frederick County to participate in the $100 million study. IDEAS is sponsored by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN), with funding and direction from the Alzheimer’s Association.

To participate in the IDEAS study, a participating neurologist must refer Medicare-eligible patients who they suspect may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, another type of dementia, or mild cognitive impairment. Medicare will then cover the cost of an amyloid positron emission tomography (PET) scan performed at FMH Crestwood. The scan can visualize the build-up of plaques in the brain which researchers suspect damage and eventually kill nerve cells, leading to Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders.

This new method of screening provides the patient and their healthcare providers with insight into their condition like never before.

“The results of the screening are shared with the ordering physician so patients and their families can work with their doctors to determine the best course of treatment and plan for the future,” said Dr. Marsha Naydich, one of the FMH radiologists who is certified to perform and interpret the IDEAS study scans.

Currently, no private insurers cover amyloid PET scans for patients being evaluated for dementia or memory loss and Medicare will only cover these exams for seniors if done as part of clinical trial or data registry. “I know of local families who have spent thousands of dollars out of pocket to have these kinds of scans so they could plan accordingly,” said Hanson.