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Crozer Health Participates in Largest Brain Amyloid Scan Research Study


By Mary Wascavage


William Zirker, M.D., MPH, Chief of the Division of Geriatrics, Crozer Health

Crozer Health is now a registered amyloid positron emission tomography (PET) imaging site in the $100 million Imaging Dementia—Evidence for Amyloid Scanning (IDEAS) Study. Crozer Health can offer Medicare-covered amyloid PET scans to study eligible Medicare patients who are referred by participating IDEAS dementia specialists (neurologists, psychiatrists and geriatric medicine physicians). The research study seeks to determine the clinical usefulness of PET imaging of brain amyloid deposits in the diagnosis of patients who are being evaluated for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“Medicare will only cover these exams for seniors if done as part of clinical trial or data registry,” says William S. Zirker, M.D., MPH, chief of the Divisions of Geriatrics at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “Currently, no private insurer covers amyloid PET scans for patients being evaluated for dementia or memory loss. I encourage local participating dementia specialists to refer eligible patients to the Center for Geriatric Medicine to get Medicare-covered amyloid PET scans that may better inform their care and future Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment.” The Center for Geriatric Medicine is staffed by a team of board-certified, fellowship-trained geriatricians and offers a full range of primary care and consultative services for older adults.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is complex. With no single test currently available, diagnosis is based on an individual’s history, physical examination and cognitive testing. Amyloid PET imaging represents a potential major advance in the assessment of people with cognitive impairment. The scan visualizes plaques present in the brain that are prime suspects in damaging and killing nerve cells in Alzheimer's patients. Before amyloid PET, these plaques could only be detected by examining the brain at autopsy. The IDEAS Study will follow Medicare beneficiaries to determine if amyloid PET scans may help physicians make more informed treatment decisions.

“There has never been a study of this scale to evaluate the clinical value of brain amyloid imaging in diagnosing and caring for those affected by Alzheimer’s,” says Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer and IDEAS Study investigator. The dementia specialists and facilities that register for the IDEAS Study will play an essential role in engaging the nearly 19,000 individuals needed in the study and carrying out the amyloid PET scans.”

“Our participation in this landmark study solidifies Crozer Health’s longtime position as a leader in the care of dementing diseases,” says Kevin Caputo, M.D., chair of Psychiatry and vice president of Behavioral Health for Crozer Health. “As a psychiatrist, I work hand-in-hand with our geriatricians to provide the best care possible to those with Alzheimer’s or other dementing disorders – and their caregivers. It is exciting to see our specialists involved in a study that can dramatically alter and improve the way we treat this devastating disease. It gives hope to our community, our patients, and those who care for and about them.”

Patients cannot directly enroll in the IDEAS Study. IDEAS Study dementia specialists must enroll patients whose cases meet the study criteria and refer them to registered PET imaging facilities, such as Crozer Health’s, for an amyloid PET scan. These scans will be performed and interpreted by a nuclear medicine physician or radiologist who is registered to take part in the IDEAS Study. Results will be provided to the ordering doctor for disclosure to the patient and to support further diagnostic decisions. Scan results and diagnosis will be captured for the study.

The IDEAS Study is sponsored by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN), with funding and direction provided by the Alzheimer’s Association, the ACR and the manufacturers of the FDA-approved radiopharmaceuticals for amyloid imaging.

Registered dementia specialists interested in referring enrolled patients to the Crozer Health Center for Geriatric Medicine can call 610-338-2722.

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