Abstract [from journal]
Importance: Clinical guidelines currently recommend against amyloid imaging for cognitively unimpaired persons. The goal of Alzheimer's disease (AD) prevention, together with advances in understanding the pathophysiology of AD, however, has led to trials testing drugs in cognitively unimpaired persons who show evidence of AD biomarkers. Assuming the eventual success of such trials, millions of patients will be affected. There is a need to understand the effects of biomarker disclosure on those individuals.
Design: The Study of Knowledge and Reactions to Amyloid Testing (SOKRATES) involved 2 semi-structured telephone interviews with individuals who received amyloid PET scan results as part of screening for research participation. Post-disclosure interviews were conducted at 4 to 12 weeks and again 1 year later. Data were collected from November 5, 2014 to November 30, 2016. Interviews were transcribed and coded in NVivo 12.0.
Participants: 80 adults aged 65 and older: 50 who received "elevated" and 30 who received "not-elevated" amyloid PET scan results.
Main Outcomes: Interviews examined four domains: (1) comprehension of the amyloid PET scan result; (2) implications of the result for sense of self, memory, and future; (3) sharing of results with others; and (4) AD risk-reduction behaviors.
Results: Participants who received an elevated amyloid PET scan result viewed the result as more serious and sensitive than other medical test results given its unique implications for identity, self-determination, and stigma. In contrast, participants who received a not-elevated amyloid PET scan result described feeling relief and reinterpreted perceived memory impairments as normal aging. Participants with elevated amyloid reported contemplating and making more changes to health behaviors and future plans than their peers with not-elevated amyloid.
Conclusions: Clinical practice in the diagnosis and treatment of persons with preclinical AD, a stage of the disease defined by the presence of biomarkers in the absence of cognitive impairment, will need to address matters of identity, stigma, and life-planning.