PET Scans to Diagnose Alzheimer's Disease | News | Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Loyola Studying the Use of PET Scans to Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease

MAYWOOD, IL – Loyola Medicine is participating in a landmark $100 million study of the effectiveness of using PET scans to detect Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease has been linked to clumps of amyloid proteins, which block signals in the brain. PET, which stands for positron emission tomography, can detect amyloid plaques.

In a PET scan, a tracer drug is injected into the patient, and the drug is taken up by any amyloid plaques in the brain. Attached to the drug is a slightly radioactive tracer, which emits a small amount of energy in the form of gamma rays. The PET scan detects this energy and a computer produces a detailed image. The tracer drug has been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

It is difficult to make a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The study will examine how PET scans affect treatment. Researchers hypothesize that PET scans will decrease uncertainty and increase confidence in the underlying cause of a patient's cognitive impairment. This would lead to earlier counseling and interventions, resulting in improved outcomes.

Researchers will examine whether PET scans affect drug therapy and counseling about safety and future planning, and whether the test improves outcomes by reducing hospital and emergency department admissions. The findings will inform the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in deciding whether to cover PET scans in dementia care.

The multi-center nationwide study will enroll 18,488 Medicare beneficiaries who have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or dementia of unknown cause.

The study is sponsored by the American College of Radiology Imaging Network, in collaboration with the Alzheimer's Association. It is titled "Imaging Dementia – Evidence for Amyloid Scanning (IDEAS)." Principal investigators at the Loyola site are Moises Gaviria, MD, a specialist in neuropsychiatry, and Robert Wagner, MD, medical director of nuclear medicine.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.