Early Alzheimer’s missed

More than half of patients with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease who don’t present with typical symptoms are initially misdiagnosed, according to a retrospective review of clinical data published in Neurology in May.

Researchers reviewed 40 cases where autopsy results had confirmed the patient had Alzheimer’s disease that had developed before they were aged 60. The average patient had the disease for 11 years and was aged 54.5 years at onset. Many presented with atypical symptoms, including 37.5% who had no impaired memory.

The most common non-memory-related symptoms were behavioural problems or a decline in executive function. In patients with atypical symptoms, 53% were initially given an incorrect diagnosis – most commonly other types of dementia. Even at the time of their death, 47% were still incorrectly diagnosed. By contrast, only 4% of patients who presented with memory loss were misdiagnosed. 

Neurology 2011;