Clinical Application of Measurement of Hippocampal Atrophy in Degenerative Dementias

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Hippocampal atrophy is a characteristic and early feature of Alzheimer's disease. Volumetry of the hippocampus using T1 weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used not only to assess hippocampal involvement in different neurodegenerative diseases as a potential diagnostic biomarker, but also to understand the natural history of diseases, and to track changes in volume over time. Assessing change in structure circumvents issues surrounding interindividual variability and allows assessment of disease progression. Disease-modifying effects of putative therapies are important to assess in clinical trials and are difficult using clinical scales. As a result, there is increasing use of serial MRI in trials to detect potential slowing of atrophy rates as an outcome measure. Automated and yet reliable methods of quantifying such change in the hippocampus would therefore be very valuable. Algorithms capable of measuring such changes automatically have been developed and may be applicable to predict decline to a diagnosis of dementia in the future. This article details the progress in using MRI to understand hippocampal changes in the degenerative dementias and also describes attempts to automate hippocampal segmentation in these diseases.

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