Serious delays in diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and MS

26 September 2013

Most patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are facing unacceptable delays in diagnosis in Europe, according to research carried out by GE Healthcare.

According to the survey, which was carried out among doctors and patients in the US, UK, France and Germany, average times from noticing symptoms to receiving diagnosis were over 12 months across all three diseases. 40% of the doctors thought it took too long to diagnose these conditions and that patients suffer as a result of the delay.

“It is unacceptable that patients with progressive neurological disorders have to wait more than a year before they receive a diagnosis. During this time, our research shows that up to 20% face the possibility of receiving the wrong treatment. Meanwhile, their condition may continue to deteriorate. This delay is hugely stressful and potentially damaging to patients,” said Dr Gabrielle Silver, Head of Neuroscience Marketing at GE Healthcare.

In the UK, access to a range of key diagnostic tests, including MRI, PET and SPECT scans, is lagging way behind other countries surveyed. The data revealed that 50% of UK patients wait up to three months for an MRI scan, compared to only 10% in the US and 15 percent in Germany. For PET scans, 44% of UK patients wait more than three months, compared to only 6.5% in Germany and 12% in France. For SPECT scans, more than half of UK patients wait more than three months, compared to 10% in Germany and 14% in France.

“Access to early and accurate diagnostic tools is essential with neurological diseases,” said Marc Wortmann, Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Disease International. “In Alzheimer’s, diagnosis can be the start of treatment and better managing the disease which can improve the patients’ overall quality of life. Not diagnosing is a lost opportunity.”

Affect on daily life

During the year-long diagnosis period across the diseases, patients are often unable to conduct their normal lives. For instance, more than half of those diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis who were employed during the diagnosis period needed to take time off work, with 20% taking at least a month. 86%of patients across disease areas said they suffered anxiety when they first visited a physician about their symptoms. Dr Silver explained, “Delays in receiving a diagnosis means that patients’ anxiety continues, as they are faced with the additional stress of not knowing. Two thirds of those we surveyed said it was worse not to know what condition they had than to receive a confirmatory diagnosis.”

“These findings highlight the urgent need for a quicker response to neurological diseases and increased ready access to early and accurate diagnostic tools. We know earlier intervention can bring significant benefits across these diseases and I would urge anyone who thinks they may be experiencing symptoms to consult with their GP as soon as possible” concluded Dr Silver.


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