Alzheimer's disease currently affects over four million Americans and is a major cause of death in the elderly. The risk of Alzheimer's disease increases with age and as our population continues to live longer the impact will even be greater. The relative risk for Alzheimer's disease associated with having a first degree relative with the disease is 3.5. When two or more first degree relatives are affected, the risk climbs to 7.5.
Although the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease has become more accurate in recent years, a brain autopsy remains the only way to confirm that an individual indeed had the disorder. In addition, an individual may have more than one progressive memory disorder and a brain autospy can identify them. The autopsy together with family history and molecular studies can frequently define if the disease is likely to be familial.
A brain autopsy provides an enduring gift for your family because it confirms the presence of a disease and supplies a vital record for the family medical history. Research studies continue to identify and to explore genetic links in Alzheimer's disease and other related disorders. Learning the precise cause of a person's disease through brain autopsy can be a tremendous relief to the family and can provide a basis to monitor future health care needs.
Alzheimer's Autopsy Services
Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) Autopsy Services
What is a Brain Autopsy?
A specially trained medical doctor, a neuropathologist, supervises the removal and initial processing of the brain from the individual. A neuropathologist is experienced in disease processes of the brain and examines sections of the tissue for distinctive structures, such as senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which are hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease as well as conducting specialized studies for research. Brain autopsy is done respectfully and does not alter the individuals appearance. Any type of funeral arrangement can be made, including open casket funerals.
Who is eligible for Autopsy at the UTHealth ADRC
Any individual with a progressive memory disorder may be eligible for autopsy at the UTHealth Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. The next-of-kin or another family member who holds a durable power of attorney must sign an autopsy consent form.
Brain Autopsy at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
Brain Autopsies also contribute to advances in scientific research. Scientists at UT study brain sections from individuals with progressive memory disorders and from individuals without memory disorders who have donated their brains for research. With the permission of the families, brain tissue will be made available to researchers at other institutions as well. Many types of scientific studies can be done. The findings contribute to understanding of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. Following the clinical course of an individual's disease and then examining the brain provides important information that will help researchers find a cause, cure and treatment of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders.
- Postmortem and Release of Body Authorization Form
- HIPAA Form
- Payment Authorization Form
- Family Member Checklist
Who Makes the Decision?
Some individuals suspected of having Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder have voiced their wishes about brain autopsy to their family. The next-of-kin is responsible for the decision. The oldest child is considered the legal next-of-kin if the spouse is deceased, although all children should be involved in the autopsy decision.
Is There a Cost for Autopsy?
The cost for a brain autopsy will depend on the kind of services provided. Please call the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at 713-500-5258 for more information.
How Will I get the Autopsy Results?
A preliminary report will be prepared within 72 hours. Microscopic examination and a report of the pathologic findings will be available within one month. Examination of the brain requires specialized fixation and examination procedures. Reports are completed in 2 to 5 months depending on the complexity of the studies required to complete the examination