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Diagnosis Neurology & Neurosurgery

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

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 is 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.

The UCSF Memory and Aging Center offers consultations to doctors from throughout the world who are treating patients with CJD. If you'd 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, preferably on CD, can be sent to:

Dr. Michael Geschwind
UCSF Memory and Aging Center
350 Parnassus Ave., Suite 905
San Francisco, CA 94117

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.