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Evidence to Improve Care

The Appropriate Use of Neuroimaging in the Diagnostic Work-Up of Dementia


Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee Recommendations

  • The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee supports the current guideline that patients with suspected dementia who present with certain special clinical features should undergo neuroimaging with computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.

  • The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee recommends that acquisition and reporting of diagnostic imaging for dementia be standardized to ensure quality.

  • The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee recommends a mega-analysis on dementia.

Read the full OHTAC Recommendation report



Dementia is a condition in the brain that causes a decline in mental abilities, which often results in death. Patients have problems with at least two brain functions, such as memory loss, impaired judgment, language problems or performing daily activities. Understanding the illness helps patients, families, and physicians prepare for the future.

Guidelines recommend computed tomography, or CT scan (followed by magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, for patients believed to have a tumour) as the best way to find the causes of mild to moderate dementia.


Health Quality Ontario Reviews Neuroimaging to Diagnose Dementia

Both CT scans and MRI are imaging procedures used to check for problems within the brain. Computed tomography uses radiography to look at cross sections of tissue, while MRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves to form images of the body. These two tests are useful for patients whose dementia might have more than one cause and for patients whose type of dementia has been unclear for two or more years.


The Appropriate Use of Neuroimaging in the Diagnostic Work-Up of Dementia: An Evidence-Based Analysis
February 2014 (PDF)


The Appropriate Use of Neuroimaging in the Diagnostic Work-Up of Dementia: An Economic Literature Review and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis
February 2014 (PDF)


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The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care endorses this recommendation.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has provided the following response: The Ministry agrees with this recommendation and encourages health care professionals to adhere to it.




Health Technology Assessment at Health Quality Ontario

As part of our core function to promote health care supported by the best available evidence, we use established scientific methods to analyze the evidence for a wide range of health interventions, including diagnostic tests, medical devices, interventional and surgical procedures, health care programs and models of care. These analyses are informed by input from a range of individuals, including patients and clinical experts. The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee (OHTAC) — a committee of the Health Quality Ontario board of directors — reviews the evidence and makes recommendations about whether health care interventions should be publicly funded or not. Draft recommendations are posted on the Health Quality Ontario website for feedback. Final recommendations are approved by our board of directors and then shared with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. For more detailed information, visit our Evidence to Improve Care pages.



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