Structural Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging to Rule out Comorbid Pathology in the Assessment of Alzheimer's Disease Dementia: Findings from the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative (ONDRI) Study and Clinical Trials over the Past 10 Years
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease
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Background/Objective: Structural brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is not mandatory in Alzheimer's disease (AD) research or clinical guidelines. We aimed to explore the use of structural brain MRI in AD/mild cognitive impairment (MCI) trials over the past 10 years and determine the frequency with which inclusion of standardized structural MRI acquisitions detects comorbid vascular and non-vascular pathologies. Methods: We systematically searched ClinicalTrials.gov for AD clinical trials to determine their neuroimaging criteria and then used data from an AD/MCI cohort who underwent standardized MRI protocols, to determine type and incidence of clinically relevant comorbid pathologies. Results: Of 210 AD clinical trials, 105 (50%) included structural brain imaging in their eligibility criteria. Only 58 (27.6%) required MRI. 16,479 of 53,755 (30.7%) AD participants were in trials requiring MRI. In the observational AD/MCI cohort, 141 patients met clinical criteria; 22 (15.6%) had relevant MRI findings, of which 15 (10.6%) were exclusionary for the study. Discussion: In AD clinical trials over the last 10 years, over two-thirds of participants could have been enrolled without brain MRI and half without even a brain CT. In a study sample, relevant comorbid pathology was found in 15% of participants, despite careful screening. Standardized structural MRI should be incorporated into NIA-AA diagnostic guidelines (when available) and research frameworks routinely to reduce diagnostic heterogeneity.