New Clinical Alzheimer’s Rating Scale Unveiled

After many years of unsuccessful research into the causes of and treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease, new drugs and testing have recently received approval – giving hope to the many families affected by the condition.  Alzheimer’s experts are also overhauling the way doctors diagnose AD – the most common form of dementia.

According to Reuters, under the new guidelines, doctors would use a seven-point rating scale to diagnose the progressive brain disorder, based on cognitive and biological changes in patients.  The revamped system to assess disease progress would replace the 2018 guidelines and is similar to the scale used to diagnose cancer. 

The development of the new guidelines was initiated in response to the wider availability of tests to detect Alzheimer’s-related proteins, including beta-amyloid, in blood, and new treatments that require pathology to confirm the disease diagnosis before use.  The updated assessment protocol is aimed at more accurately identifying the disease and its progression. 

The new assessment tool would assign patients a score between 1 and 7, rating the presence of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers and the progression of cognitive changes.  The system also ranks four biological stages; a, b, c and d.   Stage 1a, for example, would indicate a patient who has no symptoms but has abnormal biomarkers – evidence of the beginning of the disease. 

In Stage 2, a patient might have abnormal biomarkers and subtle changes in cognition or behaviour. Stage 3 would be what is now termed mild cognitive impairment and stages 4, 5, and 6 would include mild, moderate and severe dementia.  The new guidelines also include Stage 0 for people who carry genes that confirm they will develop Alzheimer’s.  People with Down Syndrome have a 75 percent likelihood of developing AD as adults. 

The proposed guidelines will be reviewed by experts and revised before being released for doctors to use in their practices.   New, less invasive and costly testing options, and treatments to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, give patients and clinicians reason for cautious optimism.