Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blood-Flow Measure May Help Clinicians Diagnose Bipolar Disorder

Brain scans that measure the flow of blood may be a diagnostic tool that can aid in the sometimes difficult task of differentiating bipolar disorder from unipolar depression, according to a report published online today in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Led by Jorge Almeida, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues, the study assessed a new imaging procedure called Arterial Spin Labeling, which measures blood flow in regions that are associated with depression. The study assessed 54 women—18 with bipolar disorder, 18 with depression, and 18 healthy controls. The subjects in the first two groups were all experiencing a depressive episode during their assessment.

Using this imaging method, the researchers were able to identify which women were depressed and which had bipolar disorder with 81% accuracy. Commenting on the findings, Almeida called the results "very promising," and said, "Earlier and more accurate diagnoses can make an enormous difference for patients and their families and may even save lives." He added, "These results also suggest that we may one day be able to predict future bipolar disorder in younger adults who haven't shown any symptoms, allowing for earlier and more accurate treatment."

For comprehensive information about bipolar disorder, see Handbook of Diagnosis and Treatment of Bipolar Disorders and Clinical Guide to Depression and Bipolar Disorder: Findings From the Collaborative Depression Study, both available from American Psychiatric Publishing.

(image: James Steidl/