To determine whether cases of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) do exist in elderly individuals and have clinical and neuropathological features distinct from those with presenile onset.
Retrospective matched cohort study.
Regional Neuroscience Centre, North East England.
We compared clinicopathological features of 11 cases of FTLD in elderly individuals with 19 cases of presenile-onset FTLD.
Retrospective case note analysis showed that most elderly patients with FTLD had behavioral features consistent with orbitofrontal and basofrontal involvement, similar to presenile-onset FTLD, though symptomatic memory loss was present in 91% (10 of 11) of elderly patients with FTLD compared with only 36% (7 of 19) of patients with presenile-onset FTLD. Neuropathologically, the group of elderly patients with FTLD comprised 7 with FTLD–TDP-43, 1 with ubiquitin-positive FTLD, 2 with FTLD-tau/Pick disease, and 1 with FTLD-tau/neurofibrillary tangle–predominant dementia with TDP-43, a composition similar to presenile-onset FTLD. However, hippocampal sclerosis was more common in elderly patients with FTLD than patients with presenile-onset FTLD (82% vs 37%) and more severe in elderly patients with FTLD (P < .05). By contrast, severe atrophy of the frontal and temporal lobes was less common in elderly patients with FTLD (frontal: 45%; temporal: 27%) than patients with presenile-onset FTLD (frontal: 63%; temporal: 78%). Elderly patients with FTLD represented 3.2% of all elderly patients with dementia autopsied at Newcastle General Hospital.
Frontotemporal lobar degeneration in elderly patients does exist as a separate entity from presenile-onset FTLD. Its main features include (1) clinically frequent memory loss and behavioral change predominating over language and semantic dysfunction and (2) neuropathologically prominent hippocampal sclerosis but less pronounced cortical lobar atrophy. Clinically, FTLD in elderly patients is underrecognized and should be considered in the elderly subjects presenting with an “atypical Alzheimer disease” phenotype.