July 12, 2012

IHS First in U.S. to Offer Imaging Diagnosis for Alzheimer’s

On Friday,July 6, 2012, Imaging Healthcare Specialists became the first imaging center in San Diego County and among the first in the nation to offer patients PET brain imaging with Amyvid™, the radioactive agent which can detect the presence or absence of amyloid plaques in the brain as part of a diagnostic evaluation to determine if a patient has the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Amyvid was FDA approved in April 2012 and released to select imaging centers across the United States by Eli Lilly on June 1, 2012. In accordance with FDA guidelines, Imaging Healthcare Specialists will use the scan only in people who already have cognitive decline and in conjunction with traditional clinical evaluation.

In this new procedure, patients are injected with a short-acting radioactive agent called florbetapir (Amyvid), which binds to amyloid plaques in the brain that are the hallmark of AD. The patient is then scanned with positron emission tomography (PET) which can detect the presence or absence of amyloid plaque.

According to Mark Schechter, MD, a board-certified diagnostic radiologist and Medical Director of PET Imaging at Imaging Healthcare Specialists, the release of Amyvid for use in patients is a major advance in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.

“Until now, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease has been made clinically” said Dr. Schechter, “and could only be confirmed at autopsy.” He added, “This test is a diagnostic adjunct to other clinical evaluation methods, such as physical examination, laboratory evaluation, and neuropsychiatric/cognitive testing, and should only be used to confirm an AD diagnosis in the cognitively impaired patient. Although this test cannot detect very low levels of amyloid plaque, a negative test means that the cognitive impairment is likely due to some cause other than AD.”

This news comes following the May announcement by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of a national plan to fight Alzheimer’s disease and find effective treatment and prevention methods by 2025. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 90 percent of what we know about Alzheimer’s has been discovered in the last 15 years.

Jon M. Robins, M.D., CEO of Imaging Healthcare Specialists, emphasized that the organization has a long-standing tradition of being an early adopter of technology.

“We are truly privileged to become the first imaging center in the region to implement the use of Amyvid in patients outside of a clinical research study. We believe that this is an important diagnostic tool that advances the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Currently, health insurance does not cover this scan so patients must pay out of pocket.

About five million Americans already have Alzheimer’s disease and the numbers are expected to soar as Baby Boomers age to approximately 15 million. The Alzheimer’s Association says the annual cost of Alzheimer’s to the United States could increase from $200 million in 2012 to more than $1 trillion by 2050.

Imaging Healthcare Specialists (IHS) has 11 offices throughout San Diego and south Riverside Counties, including Temecula, Oceanside, Encinitas, Poway, La Jolla, Chula Vista and San Diego.

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