Because the first symptoms tend to affect personality and behavior, frontotemporal dementia may be mistaken as a psychiatric disorder. Diagnosis requires a thorough physical examination and interview with family members.
At the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, patients undergo an extensive neurological, neurophysicial and nursing assessment, usually taking about three hours. Caregivers are also interviewed.
Because memory loss and other related symptoms are often complex, the evaluation may require two to three visits to determine the cause of the symptoms and recommend treatment.
After the evaluation, the medical team meets to discuss the diagnosis and potential treatments and then discusses its findings with the patient and the family. In some cases, a diagnosis will be deferred until more information from blood tests or brain imaging is collected.
FTD leads to loss of brain tissue that is visible on imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance images (MRI), which are key in identifying the characteristic shrinking of the frontal and temporal lobes, located in the front of the brain. Other tests include positron emission tomography (PET), computed tomography (CT) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT).
As part of the diagnosis, a written report is sent to the patient's primary care physician or specialist who referred the patient to UCSF.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.