Northern California PET Imaging Center Strides to the Forefront of the Battle Against Alzheimer's Disease


July 18, 2012 - Sacramento, CA—Northern California PET Imaging Center (NCPIC) has become among the first facilities in Northern California to offer patients the service of positron emission tomography (PET) brain imaging using the newly FDA approved agent Amyvid™, a radioactive tracer able to detect the presence of amyloid plaques in the brain. This process is a critical component in determining if a patient has the pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

Dementia is a syndrome due to disease of the brain – usually of a chronic and progressive nature - in which there is deterioration in memory, changes in behavior, and increasing difficulty in the ability to perform everyday activities. Dementia is not a normal part of aging. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.4 million American adults of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease. This figure includes 200,000 individuals under the age of 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is overwhelming for the families of affected individuals and for their caregivers. While there is no treatment currently available to cure this disease or to alter its progressive course, numerous new treatments are being investigated. Some of these were recently mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article, For Alzheimer’s, a Fork in the Road, published July 16, 2012.

Approved by the FDA in April and released to selected imaging centers by Eli Lilly and Company and Avid Radiopharmaceuticals in June, florbetapir (Amyvid™) gives patients with cognitive decline, their families, and the physicians who treat them, more information about the amyloid plaques that may be found in their brain. In this groundbreaking new procedure, Amyvid™ is used

to evaluate patients demonstrating signs of cognitive decline. This short-acting radioactive agent binds to amyloid plaques in the brain, a characteristic trait of AD. After administration of Amyvid™, a PET scan of the brain is performed to show the presence or absence of amyloid plaque. An Amyvid™ PET brain scan is an adjunct to other diagnostic evaluations.

Dr. Steve Falen, Medical Director at Northern California Pet Imaging Center, who, along with Dr. Elma Abella, is specially trained to interpret these scans, discusses the significance of the results of the scan. "Moderate to frequent amyloid plaques are present in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. If there is sparse to no amyloid plaque present, this is inconsistent with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease at the time of the study. If there

is moderate to frequent amyloid plaque present, " Dr. Falen explains, "the patient may or may not have Alzheimer’s disease, since plaques may also be present in patients with other types of neurologic conditions, as well as in older individuals with normal cognition. The results of the scan can be greatly helpful to the physician in determining the next steps needed in the treatment of the patient."

There is currently no Medicare coverage for Amyvid™ studies, and educating all insurance companies about the value of PET imaging for cognitive impairment will be critical. Another (metabolic) PET brain scan performed with the tracer FDG is available and covered by Medicare under certain circumstances. To know more about coverage or to schedule a scan call 888-738-3211.

This entry was posted on July 18, 2012