Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s are very difficult to diagnose, especially in the early stages. Alzheimer’s shares several symptoms with other conditions, including frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), which can result in a misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosis. While a false diagnosis can happen to anyone, there may be risk factors that increase the likelihood of an incorrect diagnosis, as shown recently by a Canadian research team. They found that psychotic patients may be at a higher risk of an incorrect Alzheimer’s diagnosis than those not suffering from psychosis.
The research team from the University of Toronto examined database entries from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC), based in Seattle. They categorized psychosis patients using responses to the Neuropsychiatric Inventory Questionnaire (NPI-Q), which contained questions regarding delusions and hallucinations. The pathology of neurodegenerative diseases often leads to the development of psychosis.
Psychosis May Contribute to False-Negative Diagnosis
Looking at the whole group, which included psychotic and non-psychotic patients, the rate of accurate Alzheimer’s diagnoses was at 76 percent. More than eleven percent of patients received a false-negative diagnosis, meaning that they had the disease, but it was not diagnosed, and 12.1 received a false-positive, meaning that they were told they had the disease, but did not have it. When examining data from the psychotic patients only, however, researchers observed a much higher rate of false-negative diagnoses. The results show that many patients who are suffering from psychosis and Alzheimer’s are not receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and therefore cannot begin treatment for the disease.
The data showed that psychotic patients are at high risk for being misdiagnosed with DLB, with a false diagnosis rate five times higher than that of non-psychotic patients. However, patients with psychotic features were revealed to be significantly less likely to receive a false-positive diagnosis than their non-psychotic counterparts. In many of these cases, what appeared to be Alzheimer’s was in fact vascular pathology that was contributing to dementia.
Currently, the only conclusive way to diagnose Alzheimer’s is by examining damage to the brain during an autopsy. Doctors must do the best that they can with the information available to them, or they risk sending patients down the wrong treatment path. The research team is hopeful that the results of their study will encourage doctors to look more closely at patients with psychosis, especially those that may appear to be suffering from DLB.
New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP Obtain Compensation for Victims of False DiagnosisIf you or your loved one had a false diagnosis relating to Alzheimer’s and has suffered as a result, call the New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP. Our knowledgeable, experienced legal team will thoroughly review the facts of your case to determine if medical negligence was a factor and hold the responsible parties accountable. With offices conveniently located in Edison, Red Bank, and Toms River, New Jersey, we help Alzheimer’s patients and their families throughout the state. Call us today at 732-777-0100 or contact us online for a free consultation.