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Tau/Aβ42

Does this test have other names?

Tau protein and amyloid beta 42 peptide test, Alzheimer's biomarkers

What is this test?

This test checks for proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid to help doctors diagnose Alzheimer's disease. Cerebrospinal fluid is the fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord. A low level of a protein called beta amyloid and a high level of a protein called tau may be associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if you have symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is a disease that causes changes in thinking and behavior. Symptoms include:

  • Memory loss

  • Changes in mood and personality

  • Decreased ability to perform daily tasks

What other tests might I have along with this test?

No test can definitively indicate Alzheimer's disease. Testing for protein levels in your cerebrospinal fluid along with physical and mental exams help doctors diagnose Alzheimer's disease. You may also have a brain scan to make images of your brain.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

If you have symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, low levels of beta amyloid protein, and high levels of tau protein, your doctor may suspect Alzheimer's disease.

How is this test done?

This test requires a sample of cerebrospinal fluid, which is taken through a lumbar puncture in your lower back. During this procedure, you either sit up and lean forward or lie down on your side. A health care provider inserts a needle into your spine and draws out a sample of fluid to be analyzed at a lab.

Does this test pose any risks?

A lumbar puncture is a safe procedure, but there are some possible risks. The most common risks are:

  • Back pain

  • Headache

  • BleedingInfection

  • Numbness                                 

Discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.

What might affect my test results?

Depending on where your testing is done, your results may be different from other people's results. That's because this type of testing is still new, and research needs to be done to standardize test numbers and techniques.

How do I get ready for this test?

You usually don't need to prepare for this test. Tell your doctor if you have a history of bleeding. You may need to lie down for a while after the test. Ask how much time you should allow for the test and recovery. In addition, be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marcellin, Lindsay, MD
Last Review Date: 2/4/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.