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Alzheimer's Disease

CT Results and Dementia

02/24/2011

Question:

My dad recently had a CT scan for differentiating Alzheimer’s dementia vs. vascular dementia. CT results revealed cortical atrophy and age related white matter low density changes but his ventricles are unremarkable.

According to the psychiatrist the fact that the ventricles are unremarkable are good. Can you explain why that is considered good?—Thanks.

Answer:

The results of a CT scan of the brain are always interpreted in light of the person's age. As we age there is some shrinkage or atrophy of the brain that is considered normal aging.
 
Also there is a tendency of having more white matter low density changes the older we are. If there is only mild atrophy, mild white matter changes that are not on the surface of the brain, and the person is older (70s to 80s), then the scan may be considered not significant.

Ventricles are fluid filled structures in the brain and have a typical size again depending on the age of the person. If the ventricles are larger, this may indicate more atrophy or brain shrinkage or more damage to the white matter regions of the brain. If the ventricles are fairly normal in size (unremarkable) then this would suggest that the brain atrophy or white matter damage reflected by the white matter low density changes are mild and maybe not significant.

 

 

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Response by:

Douglas W Scharre, MD Douglas W Scharre, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology
Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University