Technology that’s now used to monitor patients in the operating room could become the first accurate way to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease before death.

The only definitive way to diagnose Alzheimer’s today is by performing an autopsy. But early test results indicate that a brain-wave analysis device can accurately detect the beginning stages of the deadly illness and even help to diagnose depression. The technology, developed by Aspect Medical Systems, converts the data from an electroencephalogram, or EEG, into a numerical value between 0 and 100 indicating the amount of electrical brain activity.

If the technology gains FDA approval for diagnosing Alzheimer’s, doctors could gain new insight into how the disease begins, which could lead to earlier treatment and help researchers find a cure.

The technology, which is undergoing clinical trials, enables doctors “to intervene at a much earlier stage in the disease,” according to Nassib Chamoun, Aspect Medical’s president and CEO.

A monitor analyzes the EEG data collected by a sensor placed on the patient’s forehead, Chamoun said. A software algorithm based on technology currently used in Aspect’s Bispectral, or BIS, monitor (now used to monitor brain function during surgery) then converts the EEG data into a numerical score.

The most common method of identifying the disease currently is by interviewing patients and their families to determine memory loss.

By John Gartner

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