New Alzheimer’s Criteria Encourages Early Detection

After more than 25 years, the criteria widely used to describe the clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), commonly referred to as the NINCDS-ADRDA criteria, have been updated to reflect new advancements in the pathology and profession of the disorder. The proposed guideline changes are intended to help physicians recognize early warning signs of the disease so they can diagnosis and begin treatments in patients before dementia occurs.

“The new guidelines are a framework for describing a disease that has a much greater breadth than might have been thought in 1984, and doctors should be aware of that,” said William Thies, PhD, chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Since 1984, when the criteria were first published, researchers have learned that the disease process can start more than a decade before symptoms appear, reports American Medical News.

The Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging released their proposed recommendations July 13 during the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Here are the proposed criteria:

  • Symptoms have a gradual onset over months to years.
  • Patients have a history of worsening of condition by report or observation.
  • Cognitive deficits occur in either amnestic presentation, such as impairment in learning, or in nonamnestic presentation, which includes deficits in word-finding or spatial cognition.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

Health professionals are being urged to offer feedback on the proposed criteria through August. The workgroups will consider the comments as they finalize the criteria, which could be published in early 2011, said Creighton Phelps, PhD, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers Program at the National Institute on Aging.

American Medical News has more on this story (, Moyer, Aug. 9).


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