To provide the clinician with a guide to the clinical utility of99m Tc-HMPAO single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and to the interpretation of specific test results in the differential diagnosis of dementia.Methods
Three hundred and sixty three patients with dementia were studied prospectively for a median three (range 1-6) years and classified into disease groups on the basis of established clinical criteria. The degree to which different patterns of cerebral blood flow (CBF) abnormality found on (99m) Tc-HMPAO SPECT imaging at the time of initial patient presentation modified clinical diagnoses was determined by calculating the likelihood ratios for pairwise disease group comparisons. The optimal clinical usage of (99m) Tc-HMPAO SPECT was determined by calculating the percentage of significant test results for each pairwise disease group comparison.Results
Bilateral posterior CBF abnormality was found to significantly increase the odds of a patient having Alzheimer's disease as opposed to vascular dementia or frontotemporal dementia. Bilateral anterior CBF abnormality significantly increased the odds of a patient having frontotemporal dementia as opposed to Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, or Lewy body disease. "Patchy" CBF changes significantly increased the odds of a patient having vascular dementia as opposed to Alzheimer's disease. Unilateral anterior, unilateral anterior plus unilateral posterior, and generalised CBF abnormality failed to contribute to the differentiation of any of these forms of dementia.Conclusions
(99m) Tc-HMPAO SPECT was found to be most useful in distinguishing Alzheimer's disease from vascular dementia and fronto temporal dementia, and least useful is differentiating between Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body disease, and between vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and progressive aphasia. It is suggested that CBF SPECT should be used selectively and as an adjunct to clinical evaluation and CT.