Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Research Shows Blacks Get Imaging For Alzheimer’s Later In Life Compared To Whites

Are health disparities to blame?

A study presented on Nov. 30 at a conference for the Radiological Society of North America exposed that Black patients got MRI imaging tests done for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias much later than white and Hispanic patients.

The research found that, on average, Black patients received computed tomography (CT), head CT angiography, and brain MRI tests for cognitive impairments at 72.5 years of age. White and Hispanic patients received imaging at 67.8 years and 66.5, respectively. Other races averaged 66.7 years old, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The study presented at the conference examined a cohort of 1,624 patients. A breakdown of the study’s participants revealed that it comprised 697 Black or African Americans, 377 whites, 275 Hispanic or Latinos, and 275 patients of other races.

Dr. Joshua Wibecan, lead author of the study and a radiology resident at Boston Medical Center, said about the study’s two main findings: “First, Black patients who received MRI or CT for cognitive impairment were significantly older than patients from other races. Second, Black patients were significantly less likely to be imaged with MRI, the optimal type of imaging for cognitive impairment, as opposed to CT,” U.S. News and World Report noted.

Disparities in accessing imaging could be one reason for the later diagnoses in Black patients. 

Wibecan also said, “If disparity in obtaining access to neuroimaging is one possible barrier that delays diagnosis, it is important to identify this and figure out possible solutions to benefit these patients and prevent a delayed diagnosis.”

The study’s results are alarming, considering that Blacks are twice as likely to develop dementia than their white counterparts, according to research from the National Institute on Aging.