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Is there a preference for PET or SPECT brain imaging in diagnosing dementia? The views of people with dementia, carers, and healthy controls

Lookup NU author(s): Claire BamfordORCiD, Kirsty OlsenORCiD, Dr Christopher Davison, Nicola Barnett, Dr James LloydORCiD, Dr David Williams, Dr Michael FirbankORCiD, Dr Helen Mason, Professor Cam Donaldson, Professor John O'Brien


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Background: Positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) brain imaging are widely used as diagnostic tools for suspected dementia but no studies have directly compared participant views of the two procedures. We used a range of methods to explore preferences for PET and SPECT.Methods: Patients and controls (and accompanying carers) completed questionnaires immediately after undergoing PET and SPECT brain scans. Pulse rate data were collected during each scan. Scan attributes were prioritized using a card sorting exercise; carers and controls additionally answered willingness to pay (WTP) questions.Results: Few differences were found either between the scans or groups of participants, although carers marginally preferred SPECT. Diagnostic accuracy was prioritized over other scan characteristics. Mean heart rate during both scans was lower than baseline heart rate measured at home (p < 0.001).Conclusion: Most participants viewed PET and SPECT scans as roughly equivalent and did not have a preference for either scan. Carer preference for SPECT is likely to reflect their desire to be with the patient (routine practice for SPECT but not for PET), suggesting that they should be able to accompany vulnerable patients throughout imaging procedures wherever possible. Pulse rate data indicated that brain imaging was no more stressful than a home visit (HV) from a researcher. The data do not support the anecdotal view that PET is a more burdensome procedure and the use of PET or SPECT scans in dementia should be based on diagnostic accuracy of the technique.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bamford C, Olsen K, Davison C, Barnett N, Lloyd J, Williams D, Firbank M, Mason H, Donaldson C, O'Brien J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Psychogeriatrics

Year: 2016

Volume: 28

Issue: 1

Pages: 123-131

Print publication date: 01/01/2016

Online publication date: 15/07/2015

Acceptance date: 07/06/2015

ISSN (print): 1041-6102

ISSN (electronic): 1741-203X

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S1041610215001039


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Funder referenceFunder name
Biomedical Research Centre and Unit in Dementia
NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in Ageing and Chronic Disease and Biomedical Research Unit in Lewy-body Dementia
NIHR RfPB PB-PG 1207 13105NIHR under its Research for Patient Benefit Programme