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New imaging test gives physicians better tool to diagnose Parkinson's disease
Date:8/25/2011

CHICAGO Thanks to a new diagnostic imaging technique, physicians now have an objective test to evaluate patients for parkinsonian syndromes, such as Parkinson's disease. Northwestern Memorial Hospital is among the first institutions in the country to offer DaTscan, the only FDA-approved imaging agent for assessment of movement disorders. Until now, there were no definitive tests to identify the disease, forcing physicians to rely on clinical examinations to make a diagnosis. This technology allows doctors to differentiate Parkinson's from other movement disorders.

"The scan by itself does not make the diagnosis of Parkinson's but it allows us to identify patients who have loss of dopamine, the major chemical responsible for the symptoms, from those who have no dopamine deficiency," said Tanya Simuni, MD, a neurologist at Northwestern Memorial and director of Northwestern's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center. "This is a very important step in being able to accurately identify and treat movement disorders and hopefully allow us to better understand these diseases over time."

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that afflicts nearly 1.5 million Americans, with an additional 50,000 to 60,000 new cases identified each year. People with Parkinson's lack dopamine in the brain, which leads to tremor, slowness of movement, muscle stiffness and balance problems. Clinical examinations, particularly early in the disease when symptoms are slight, can be inconclusive or lead to misdiagnosis of another movement disorder, such as essential tremor, which share similar symptoms to Parkinson's, but require different treatment.

Developed by GE Healthcare, DaTscan is a substance used to detect the presence of dopamine transporters (DaT) in the brain. A patient is injected with the contrast agent and then undergoes a single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan. The test captures detailed pictures of the brain'
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Contact: Megan McCann
memccann@nmh.org
312-926-5900
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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