Acclaimed Neurosurgeon Funds Breakthrough Alzheimer's Diagnosis Initiative

Acclaimed Neurosurgeon Funds Breakthrough Alzheimer's Diagnosis Initiative

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Dr. Reza Khatib is an internationally renowned neurosurgeon, bridge director and resident of Palm City. His clinical accomplishments have been responsible for major breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment for neurological oncology, intracranial aneurysms and skull-based tumor surgery, to name a few.

In the spring of 2017, Dr. Khatib received a Sage Award, an honor given by the Council on Aging of Martin County to recognize seniors who continue to use their wisdom and talents to better the world around them. Through this introduction, Dr. Khatib learned about the Council on Aging’s Joseph C. & Ann S. Day Medical Center where medical director Dr. R. Emmet Kenney and his team provide focused, thorough primary medical care tailored to the needs of older adults.

Despite a decades-long career at the forefront of neurology, Dr. Khatib is also personally familiar with the trauma of having a loved one misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

In early 2015, his wife, Georgiana, began exhibiting signs of memory loss and difficulty carrying out basic tasks. After consultation with multiple neurologists, Georgiana was prescribed medication to treat Alzheimer’s disease. The couple, however, decided to continue pursuit of a more accurate diagnosis. An additional consultation with a new neurologist led to an opportunity for Georgiana to undergo an Amyloid PET Scan of her brain. The results came back normal. Georgiana did not have Alzheimer’s disease.

Georgiana was referred to a cardiologist who found that she was suffering from an intermittent low heart rate. The solution to Georgiana’s medical ailments was a pacemaker. Her dementia-like symptoms have disappeared.

“I’ve seen first-hand how easy it is to receive a misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Khatib. “I believe that more patients who have been prescribed Alzheimer’s medication should have the opportunity to receive an Amyloid PET Scan to confirm the diagnosis. If the results are normal, the medication should be discontinued immediately and the work-up to find the real cause of dementia should start.”

An Amyloid PET Scan is a specialized type of brain scan that can improve certainty that Alzheimer’s is the cause of a person’s memory loss. These scans utilize a specialized molecular imaging tracer that bonds to amyloid deposits in the brain, a tell-tale sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Though the presence of amyloid does not guarantee or predict that a patient has or will develop Alzheimer’s disease, a lack of amyloid definitively rules out the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This opens the door to exploring alternative diagnoses and treatment plans for cognitive impairment.

These scans are not covered by Medicare. Some private insurance plans cover a small percentage, but still require a significant out-of-pocket cost, making the test financially out of reach for most patients to receive during the diagnostic process.

Near the end of 2017, Dr. Khatib granted dedicated funds to the Day Medical Center to provide patients the opportunity to receive diagnostic PET scans at no cost. Of the 20 patients who underwent the scan, nine were lacking amyloid, which ruled out Alzheimer’s disease. These patients immediately discontinued medications for Alzheimer’s and were referred to specialized doctors in order to find out the real cause of their dementia symptoms.

After the success of the first phase of the project, Dr. Khatib agreed to grant additional funds to continue offering the free scans. Patients from Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties who are currently taking Alzheimer’s medications, such as Nemenda or Aricept, and who have not taken an Amyloid PET Scan are eligible to receive a scan free of charge after consultation with the Day Medical Center. Scans are provided by partners Piramal Imaging, Martin Health System and iCARE Radiology.

Individuals interested in receiving PET scans do not need to be existing patients of the Day Medical Center and may be referred by the patient’s neurologist or primary care provider. Once the scan is complete, the results will be shared with the patient’s provider and appropriate follow-up will be coordinated.  

To schedule a consultation, call the Day Medical Center at 772.223.7864.

The Joseph C. & Ann S. Day Medical Center is a service of the not-for-profit Council on Aging of Martin County. Located in the Kane Center, it is a full-service internal and geriatric medicine practice where the care model emphasizes quality over quantity care. To learn more about the Day Medical Center, visit daymedicalcenter.org.

The Charles & Rae Kane Center, 900 SE Salerno Road, Stuart, FL 34997

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