Is it useful to diagnose patients with Alzheimer's when there is no cure yet? There is a lot of discussion about that issue. Today Ingrid van Maurik publishes a study in Alzheimer's and Dementia that sheds new light on this discussion. The main finding: a timely and accurate diagnosis, with attention to the underlying disease process, postpones admission to a convalescent home, extends life expectancy, and leads to lower healthcare costs in the years after diagnosis.

We cannot yet cure Alzheimer's, but a good diagnosis nevertheless helps to improve care. The innovative amyloid-PET scan technique helps to make a timely and accurate diagnosis. Dr. van Maurik and her colleagues of the ABIDE Clinical Utility Study, investigated if patients and caregivers with accurate knowledge about the diagnosis are better able to plan and manage their own health and healthcare.

Linking two similar groups

In 2015 and 2016, about half of all new patients at Alzheimer Center Amsterdam received an amyloid-PET scan, the other half did not. The researchers used advanced statistical techniques to create two comparable groups of patients: for each patient from the amyloid-PET scan group, they looked for a comparable patient from the non-amyloid-PET group with the same characteristics. They then linked the medical data to data on nursing home admission, life expectancy, and healthcare costs at the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). The study shows that patients with a more precise diagnosis, in this case by means of an amyloid-PET scan, were admitted to a convalescent home less often, passed away less often, and incurred fewer healthcare costs in the years after diagnosis. The researchers could not explain these findings by other factors, such as age, disease stage or other diseases present.

A well-informed patient

The researchers think that the effect of diagnostics on convalescent home admission, life expectancy and healthcare costs is mainly due to the fact that the patient and caretakers are better informed about the underlying disease (or the absence of disease). As a result of knowing where they are at, they can better arrange their care. Well-arranged care then has a positive effect on the entire disease trajectory. This study illustrates the relevance of an accurate diagnosis and shows that, even though there is currently no drug treatment, a good diagnosis is of great value to the patient.

Quick and accurate diagnosis

In the coming years, researchers from Alzheimercentrum Amsterdam and the ABOARD project will continue to develop tests to diagnose Alzheimer's quickly and accurately. These tests are aimed at recognizing the first brain changes, but also revealing differences between patients. For example, individual risk profiles can be developed to predict the personal course of the disease.


The research is a result of the 'ABIDE-clinical utility' project, a collaboration between Health~Holland, Topsector Life Sciences & Health and Life-MI, and the ABOARD project. ABOARD is a public-private partnership that receives funding from ZonMW and Health~Holland, Topsector Life Sciences & Health (PPP allowance). More than 30 partners contribute in kind and/or in cash. ABOARD also receives funding from Gieskes-Strijbisfonds and Edwin Bouw Fonds.