Automated MRI Technique Makes Alzheimer's Diagnosis Faster

A new automated MRI measures brain tissue and can help physicians diagnose Alzheimer’s disease quicker and more accurately at an earlier stage.

Results of a new study recently published in Radiology show that an automated system that measures brain tissue with MRI can help physicians diagnose Alzheimer’s disease quicker and more accurately at an earlier stage. The current method—using an MRI with high spatial resolution to visualize subtle anatomic changes that signal atrophy—is complicated and time-consuming. Thus, it “hasn’t become part of clinical routine,” said the study’s lead author Olivier Colliot, PhD, the Cognitive Neuroscience and Brain Imaging Laboratory, Paris, France. Using an automated segmentation process with newly developed computer software, Colliot’s research team found similar results, compared to previous studies using manual segmentation, in measuring the hippocampus volume in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and those who were cognitively impaired as. “The performance of automated segmentation is not only similar to that of the manual method, it is much faster," Dr. Colliot said. "It can be performed within a few minutes versus an hour.”

These study results seem all well and good, but is getting MRI results 50 minutes faster than normal really going to make a difference in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease? In the office setting, do you get results from the radiologist as soon as the procedure is done, or do you have to wait a day, or even a few days, before results are provided? In the latter case, it doesn’t matter if segmentation takes 10 minutes or three hours, right? Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the automated process allows the radiologist to see changes in the hippocampus volume 45-55 minutes faster than with the manual method, allowing him or her to provide those results immediately to you; is that going to make any difference in how quickly you start treating a patient? Again for argument’s sake, let’s say it does; is it worth the added expense (estimated price is unknown) of an automated system with new computer software to be able to treat a patient 50 minutes (at the most) earlier than with the standard procedure?

My guess is no, but tell me if I’m wrong. I want to hear from you. Let me know what you think! Add a comment below and start a dialog with your healthcare professional cohorts.

More MRI and Alzheimer’s Diagnosis News:

Computers Could be Used to Diagnose Alzheimer's Disease

MRI/PET Scanner Combo Made For First Time

MRI Images of Genes in Action in the Living Brain Captured