Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) constitutes a spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders associated with degeneration of, predominantly, the frontal and temporal lobes. The clinical heterogeneity is evident, and early diagnosis is a challenge. The primary objectives were to characterize psychotic symptoms, initial clinical diagnoses and family history in neuropathologically verified FTD-patients and to analyze possible correlations with different neuropathological findings.
The medical records of 97 consecutive patients with a neuropathological diagnosis of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) were reevaluated. Psychotic symptoms (hallucinations, delusions, paranoid ideas), initial diagnosis and family history for psychiatric disorders were analyzed.
Psychotic symptoms were present in 31 patients (32%). There were no significant differences in age at onset, disease duration or gender between patients with and without psychotic symptoms. Paranoid ideas were seen in 20.6%, and hallucinations and delusions in 17.5% in equal measure. Apart from a strong correlation between psychotic symptoms and predominantly right-sided brain degeneration, the majority of patients (77.4%) were tau-negative. Only 14.4% of the patients were initially diagnosed as FTD, while other types of dementia were seen in 34%, other psychiatric disorders in 42%, and 9.2% with other cognitive/neurological disorders. The patients who were initially diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder were significantly younger than the patients with other initial clinical diagnoses. A positive heredity for dementia or other psychiatric disorder was seen in 42% and 26% of the patients respectively.
Psychotic symptoms, not covered by current diagnostic criteria, are common and may lead to clinical misdiagnosis in FTD.