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Open Access Research article

Fluorodeoxyglucose-Positron Emission Tomography in the differential diagnosis of early-onset dementia: a prospective, community-based study

Peter K Panegyres12*, Jeffrey M Rogers2, Michael McCarthy34, Andrew Campbell3 and Jing Shan Wu4

Author Affiliations

1 Neurodegenerative Disorders Research, 185 York St, Subiaco WA, Australia

2 Neurosciences Unit, Health Department of Western Australia, Perth WA, Australia

3 Department of Nuclear Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth WA, Australia

4 WA PET/Cyclotron Service, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth WA, Australia

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BMC Neurology 2009, 9:41  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-9-41

Published: 12 August 2009



The aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of positron emission tomography (PET) using F18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) in the differential diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other dementias in a community-dwelling population.


A prospective sample of 102 individuals presenting consecutively to a primary care centre for examination of suspected early-onset dementing diseases. The mean age of symptom onset of dementia in our patients was 60.06 ± 4.28 years (mean ± 1SD, 95% lower confidence intervals (CI) 54.75, upper 63.37). Patients were evaluated using standard clinical criteria for the diagnosis of dementia. Functional neuroimaging data was obtained and nuclear medicine physicians blind to the clinical diagnosis generated FDG-PET diagnoses. Final clinical diagnoses based on all available data were then established and compared against PET diagnoses.


Forty-nine patients received a final clinical diagnosis of early-stage AD (MMSE score 20.97 ± 5.10). There were 29 non-AD demented patients, 11 depressed patients and a miscellaneous group of 13 patients. Among patients with AD, the sensitivity and specificity of FDG-PET was 78% (95% CI: 66–90%) and 81% (95% CI: 68–86%), respectively. The positive likelihood ratio (PLR) for a FDG-PET scan positive for the diagnosis of AD was 4.11 (95% CI: 2.29–7.32) and negative likelihood ratio (NLR) for a negative FDG-PET scan in the absence of AD was 0.27 (95% CI: 0.16–0.46). The pre-test probability was 48% and post-test probability was 79.02%. The specificity of FDG-PET in the differential diagnosis of other dementias, including frontotemporal dementia, was greater than 95%.

Recruitment methods in this study provide a sample that may be more representative of patients in the general population and indicate that FDG-PET imaging can contribute to the diagnosis of AD in younger adults with major increases in the positive likelihood rates and post-test probability.


The high specificity of FDG-PET suggests this technique might help in the diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia and other forms of early-onset dementia.