10 Types of Dementia That Aren't Alzheimer's and How They're Diagnosed

10 Types of Dementia That Aren't Alzheimer's and How They're Diagnosed: Page 4

By Dr. Harvey Gilbert, MD
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Mini Mental State Evaluation (MMSE)

The mini-mental status exam is a very brief evaluation of the patient's cognitive status used in diagnosing dementia types. The patient is required to identify the time, date and place (including street, city and state) where the test is taking place, be able to count backwards, identify objects previously known to him or her, be able to repeat common phrases, perform basic skills involving math, language use and comprehension, and demonstrate basic motor skills.

Mini-Cog

Another test for diagnosing dementia, the mini-cog takes only a few minutes to administer and is used as an initial screening for various types of dementia. The patient is required to identify three objects in the office, then draw the face of a clock in its entirety from memory, and finally, recall the three items identified earlier.

Imaging Tests: CTs, MRIs and Pet Scans

Physicians diagnosing dementia may study the structure of the patient's brain by CT or MRI to see if there are any growths, abnormalities or general shrinkage (as seen in cases of Alzheimer's). Studies of brain function, using a PET scan and a special form of MRI can more definitively confirm the diagnosis of various types of dementia and raise the accuracy of the diagnosis to 90%. A PET scan administered and reviewed by an expert delivers the most accurate and suggestive results while diagnosing dementia. The most accurate form of PET scanning for types of dementia is called Stereotactic Surface Projection, which involves an advanced statistical analysis of the data.

In 2007, led by Dr. Norman Foster, head of the Alzheimer's Center at the University of Utah, a group of elite PET scientists and dementia experts conducted a study in which they performed PET scans and clinical tests on multiple patients. The accuracy with the tests was 90% for both Alzheimer's and frontotemporal dementia types. They stated that scans increased the experts' confidence in diagnosing dementia types and made them question and sometimes change the diagnosis in 42% of cases. They stated that early and accurate diagnosing of dementia is critical to avoid misdiagnosis and mistreatment. The results of this study show that PET scanning is highly predictive of the patient's clinical course and essential to properly diagnosing dementia.