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Imaging and Radiology

Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas

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DaTscan™ as SPECT Imaging Aid  

Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological disease affecting balance, movement and agility, affects approximately 1 percent of the population over 60 years of age. Although recent years have brought increased awareness of this disorder, the lack of a test to detect this condition can lead to misdiagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and related syndromes. In many cases, especially early in the course of the disease, an important step in diagnosis is to distinguish Parkinson's syndrome (PS) from essential tremor (ET).

Patients with ET may have some of the same symptoms as those with PS, but have a much better prognosis and generally undergo different types of medical therapy than PS patients. Sometimes, it can take years of clinical follow-up to distinguish PS symptoms from ET symptoms.

However, a new radiopharmaceutical called DaTscan™ has been approved by the FDA to be used in nuclear medicine SPECT imaging to help distinguish Parkinsonian syndromes (PS) from essential tremor (ET). This agent detects the amount or lack of neurons in the brain that act as dopamine transporters.  

DaTscan imaging is not the ultimate test for Parkinsonian syndromes, but can be a valuable adjunct to the clinical evaluation and to any other testing that the physician feels necessary to help confirm or exclude the diagnosis,” he said. “The value of DaTscan is often to either increase the physician’s confidence in the diagnosis, especially early in the course of the disease, or to give the physician more cause to investigate other possible causes of the patient’s symptoms.”

Although similar agents have been available in other countries for several years, DaTscan only recently obtained FDA approval for use in the United States. The Nuclear Medicine Department at Baylor Dallas and the seven nuclear imaging radiologists on the medical staff were among the first group in the country to complete the credentialing requirements for optimal techniques in performing and interpreting the DaTscan imaging. Baylor Dallas imaged its first patient with DaTscan on July 19, 2011 and has imaged a number of patients since then. 

“For patients with essential tremor, DaTscan can help them avoid being incorrectly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, so they can anticipate a much better prognosis and can generally be treated with a drug regimen that has fewer side effects,” Dr. Griffeth said.

Read more information on nuclear medicine imaging.