For years, scientists and doctors have studied Alzheimer’s as a (sometimes genetic) condition affecting the brain. The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease with no cure and no way to determine whether or not a person will develop it, unless it is one of the rare genetic forms. A person with Alzheimer’s may easily mistake the most common symptom – memory loss – as one of the signs of aging. Treatments are available to help with the symptoms, but ultimately there is nothing a person can do about the condition. It strikes when it strikes.
Until now, that is. New research out of the U.K. has “discovered that brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s may be transmissible through certain medical procedures. Skeptical scientists urged caution [last year at the initial findings], but now a different set of autopsy results have shown the same thing.” Scientists first discovered the link because they were studying “brains of patients who died of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD), a rare brain-wasting disorder,” patients who had dura mater grafts at some point in their lives. Of those 7 brains, 5 of them exhibited signs of the amayoid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Each of the patients was considered too young to have developed the plaques. This discovery “suggests that that the ‘seeds’ of certain neurological diseases can be transmitted during certain medical procedures—or even through contaminated surgical instruments.”
Much more research must be conducted to see if this “seeding” is truly consistent. Nature News points out that “Alzheimer’s disease could never be transmitted through normal contact with caretakers or family members,” and that “researchers [cannot] rule out the possibility that the underlying condition that led to the need for neurosurgery [involving the dura mater] could have contributed to the observed amyloid pathology.” It is entirely possible that the Alzheimer’s traits visible in those 5 brains are a result of the original condition and not anything else.
However, if it turns out that neurological diseases can be spread through certain procedures, then doctors and surgeons must warn families about the potential risk of developing another neurological condition as the result of such procedures.
We invite you to check back for updates about this discovery. To learn more about medical malpractice, or to speak with a skilled Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, please visit Plaxen & Adler, P.A.