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Brain Scan To Rule Out Alzheimer's Will Be Available On The NHS

Before it wasn't possible to definitively rule out Alzheimer's in someone until after they died. Now many could be spared a wrong diagnosis.

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A brain scanning technique that helps doctors find signs of Alzheimer's disease will now be available on the NHS for the first time.

Roxana Wegner/Roxana Wegner

In the test patients take a radioactive chemical that binds to protein clumps called amyloid plaques in their brain, showing up the plaques on a brain scan. Amyloid plaques are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease.

If a brain scan shows no plaques, Alzheimer's is ruled out and the patient could be in the clear for the disease for five years.

The test can't definitively say that a person does have Alzheimer's, but combined with other tests would support a diagnosis.

Until now, diagnosing Alzheimer's disease has not been always straightforward because we haven't had a simple test to show whether someone has it or not. For many people, we can be fairly confident of the diagnosis due to their age, results of memory tests and brain scans, but for others, who may be younger or who have very early symptoms or an unusual presentation, we are less confident.

At the G8 summit today David Cameron will pledge to lead a "global fightback" against dementia.

Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters

This will include aiming to double funding for research into dementia from the £66 million currently allocated for 2015.