Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is typically a rapidly progressive dementia. Early diagnosis is important because the underlying cause of the dementia may be treatable.
If CJD is suspected, you may undergo a series of tests. Your doctor will conduct a neurological examination and other tests such as a spinal tap to rule out more common and treatable forms of dementia and an electroencephalogram (EEG) to record the brain's electrical pattern, which can identify a specific abnormality that sometimes occurs in CJD.
Computerized tomography (CT) of the brain can help rule out the possibility that symptoms are caused by other problems such as a stroke or a brain tumor.
One of the most effective diagnostic tools is a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan, which can reveal patterns of abnormal brain signals characteristic of CJD.
In rare cases, when the diagnosis is not clear, a brain biopsy might be performed. A neurosurgeon removes a small piece of tissue from the abnormal area of the brain and the tissue is examined by a neuropathologist. Generally, an MRI is sufficient and this procedure is not necessary.
After death, a definitive diagnosis can be made with an autopsy that examines the brain.
The UCSF Memory and Aging Center offers consultations to doctors from throughout the world who are treating patients with CJD. If you would like your doctor to consult with UCSF, ask your doctor to fax your records to the attention of Dr. Michael Geschwind at (415) 476-4800. Doctors at the Memory and Aging Center will review your records.
Copies of MRI films, preferrably on CD, can be sent to:
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.