Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 August 2012
As the world population ages, the incidence of dementing illnesses will dramatically increase. The number of people afflicted with dementia is expected to quadruple in the next 50 years. Since the neuropathology of the dementias precedes clinical symptoms often by several years, earlier detection and intervention could be key steps to mitigating the progression and burden of these diseases. This review will explore methods of evaluating, differentiating, and diagnosing the multiple forms of dementia. Particular emphasis will be placed on the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment—the precursor to dementia. Anatomical imaging; cerebrospinal fluid markers; functional neuroimaging, such as positron emission tomography and single photon emission tomography; and molecular imaging, such as amyloid marker imaging, will be assessed in terms of sensitivity and specificity. Cost will also be a consideration, as the growing population afflicted with dementia represents an increasingly large financial encumbrance to the healthcare systems of every nation. In the face of expensive new markers and limited availability of cyclotrons, single photon emission computer tomography (SPECT) provides relatively high sensitivity and specificity at a comparatively low overall cost.