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January 1992

Evaluation of Cerebral Biopsies for the Diagnosis of Dementia

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pathology, Division of Neuropathology (Drs Hulette and Crain), the Department of Medicine, Division of Neurology (Dr Earl), and the Department of Neurobiology (Dr Crain), Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.

Arch Neurol. 1992;49(1):28-31. doi:10.1001/archneur.1992.00530250032011

• To identify those patients most likely to benefit from a cerebral biopsy to diagnose dementia, we reviewed a series of 14 unselected biopsies performed during a 9-year period (1980 through 1989) at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC. Pathognomonic features allowed a definitive diagnosis in seven specimens. Nondiagnostic abnormalities but not diagnostic neuropathologic changes were seen in five additional specimens, and two specimens were normal. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was the most frequent diagnosis. One patient each was diagnosed as having Alzheimer's disease, diffuse Lewy body disease, adult-onset Niemann-Pick disease, and anaplastic astrocytoma. We conclude that a substantial proportion of patients presenting clinically with atypical dementia are likely to receive a definitive diagnosis from a cerebral biopsy. However, in those with coexisting hemiparesis, chorea, athetosis, or lower motor neuron signs, cerebral biopsies are less likely to be diagnostic.