Philips and University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf to test the world's first MRI/PET image software tool for the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases

Hamburg 27 June 2007The University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and Royal Philips Electronics have developed a computer aided diagnosis (CAD) system for neurodegenerative diseases to support clinicians in diagnosing the onset and type of disease as early as possible. The new diagnostic technique, which has already proven its accuracy using historical image data and known patient outcomes, is about to undergo clinical evaluation at UKE.


The CAD system is a software package that automatically interprets Positron Emission Tomography (PET) brain scans of patients suspected of having a neurodegenerative disease that leads to dementia, and combines them with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans for accurate differential diagnosis. The development of such a system will ultimately mean a better quality of life for patients by enabling earlier prescription of drugs that delay progression of the disease, and hence delay the worst effects of dementia. It will also provide pharmaceutical companies and clinicians with a valuable tool for the development and testing of new, potentially curative drugs for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

"In the not too distant future there is going to be much greater demand for the accurate early diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease and not everyone will have access to the clinical expertise of a university hospital to obtain it", stated Dr. Ralph Buchert of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at UKE. "The availability of an automated system will help less experienced physicians to achieve the same high level of accuracy in their diagnoses."

Dementia is a debilitating condition that already affects more than 25 million people worldwide, the commonest form being Alzheimer's disease. As the demographics of world populations increasingly shift towards older age groups, dementia is widely expected to reach epidemic proportions unless effective treatments are found for it.

"Building on our expertise in multi-modal diagnostic imaging, we've combined functional and structural brain-scan information into a fully integrated and easy to use system for diagnosing the principal neurodegenerative diseases that cause dementia", stated Dr. Lothar Spies, Head of the Digital Imaging Department at Philips Research. "Ultimately, it will enable early treatment and highly personalized therapies."

The software tool developed by Philips Research and UKE accurately overlays anatomical images of the brain obtained from MRI scans with PET scans that display brain activity - specifically the uptake of glucose that fuels brain activity. By using advanced image processing and computer learning techniques in combination with a database of reference brain-scans, the system then analyses the images automatically and displays anomalous brain patterns in a concise way. Based on these patterns, it then suggests a diagnosis. As a result, the system will help less experienced doctors to achieve the same diagnostic accuracy as highly trained specialists.

The clinical evaluation that is about to start will run the computer aided diagnostic system alongside UKE's existing dementia diagnosis procedures with the aim of fine-tuning the system's ability to detect and differentiate the three most common types of neurodegenerative disease - Alzheimer's Disease, Lewy-body Dementia and Frontotemporal Dementia.

Royal Philips Electronics of The Netherlands is a global expert in health care, lifestyle and technology, delivering products, services and solutions through the brand promise of "sense and simplicity". Headquartered in The Netherlands, Philips employs approximately 124.300 employees in more than 60 countries worldwide. With sales of USD 34 billion (27 billion euro) in 2006, the company is a market expert in medical diagnostic imaging and patient monitoring systems, energy efficient lighting solutions, personal care and home appliances, as well as consumer electronics. More company news is available in the VMW June 2007 article Philips awarded preferred telehealth contract by Visiting Nurse Associations of America.

Leslie Versweyveld

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