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Hospitals and imaging centers across the country are starting to adopt a new PET scan technology that aids in diagnosing dementias including Alzheimer’s disease. The scan provides clinicians and researchers with the ability to see beta amyloid plaques in the brain, a major marker in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease that until now could only be seen in an autopsy. This new technology makes it possible for clinicians and researchers to see these plaques in real time. But with a FDA label that limits its use to ruling out Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s field is still figuring out its diagnostic value to older adults with cognitive complaints. Now, the medical marketplace will start to shape this value.
More than 300 centers are equipped to perform the scans, but as of now many insurers including Medicare will not cover the several thousand dollar cost of the scans. Another issue surrounding the scans is the emotional effect of revealing the results of these scans to patients and their family members.