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letters | when the doctors have it wrong

It can take a team to facilitate accurate diagnoses

Terrie Lambert kept seeking opinions after her husband Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff/file

Terrie Lambert kept seeking opinions after her husband Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

We applaud Kay Lazar’s article concerning the incorrect diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with normal pressure hydrocephalus (“A diagnosis turned on its head,” g section, Aug. 12). Only a handful of dementias are partly or wholly reversible, but this article underscores the human toll that hasty or incorrect diagnoses can take and emphasizes the importance of thorough evaluation. More than 60 diseases can mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and accurate diagnosis allows clinicians to match appropriate treatment to a patient’s actual condition.

Assessment of cognitive changes and clinical management are often most successfully accomplished by an interdisciplinary team combining input from neurology, psychiatry, neuropsychology, neuroradiology, medicine, and social work. While such a process can require multiple visits, the cost of misdiagnosis can be terribly high, as it was for Jim Lambert, who lost three years of his life.

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Memory disorder clinics are available in all of Boston’s major teaching hospitals. In these settings, patients and their families can find the expertise and resources to facilitate accurate diagnoses and avoid the tragedy described in Lazar’s article.

Donald A. Davidoff

Chief of neuropsychology

Dr. James Ellison


Geriatric psychiatry program

McLean Hospital


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