Diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease

Unlike many diseases that can be identified with simple laboratory tests, there is no single method for diagnosing Alzheimer's and related disorders. To determine whether a patient's dementia is caused by Alzheimer's or another brain disorder requires the level of experience and skill found at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Examination and evaluation are essential in determining whether the dementia is the result of a treatable illness.

The team at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital evaluates and diagnoses the causes of dementia using a battery of tests, including:

  • Neuropsychological testing to thoroughly assess memory and thinking abilities.
  • Structural imaging of the brain, such as magnetic resonance (MRI) or computed tomography (CT).
  • Functional imaging of the brain, such as positron emission tomography (PET) or single photon computed tomography (SPECT). NewYork-Presbyterian is well-known for our exceptional neuro-imaging program.
  • Blood tests for vitamins, hormones, or signs of infection or inflammation.
  • Spinal fluid tests to assess for inflammation, infection, or disease "biomarkers." Doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell developed a spinal fluid test for Alzheimer's that is not available elsewhere.
  • Other specialized tests, such as electroencephalography (EEG).
  • Genetic testing in certain patients in whom the disease may run in the family. NewYork-Presbyterian physicians co-authored the guidelines for the use of genetic testing in families with Alzheimer's disease.