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One medical visit reveals much about Alzheimer's progression: study

November 11, 2013
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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One medical visit is all it takes to gather enough data to predict how long it will be before someone with Alzheimer’s disease needs professional long-term care or dies, according to Columbia University Medical Center researchers. They based their method on a model of Alzheimer’s disease progression they developed by studying for 10 years each two sets of people with the disease.

“Until now, some methods of predicting the course of Alzheimer’s have required data not obtained in routine clinical practice, such as specific neuropsychologic or other measurements, and have been relatively inaccurate. This method is more practical for routine use,” Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, co-author of a paper published online by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and associate professor of neurology, said in a press release. “It may become a valuable tool for both physicians and patients’ families.”

The model includes 16 sets of variables, among them:

  • Ability to participate in routine day-to-day activities;
  • Mental status;
  • Motor skills;
  • Estimated time of symptom onset; and
  • Duration of tremor, rigidity or other neurological symptoms.

It also includes time and cause of death.

Within two years, the researchers hope to make available to healthcare professionals a computer program that would produce reports based on the variables they input. Eventually, such a program might be incorporated into electronic health record systems.

A grant from the National Institute of Aging supported the study. Additional researchers involved in the project are affiliated with Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

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