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

s dopamine system and can provide visual evidence of the presence of dopamine transporters. Scans of patients with Parkinson's disease or another parkinsonian syndrome will show very low dopamine levels. A SPECT scan examines brain function, rather than structure, and can show change in the brain's chemistry.

"In Parkinson's patients the brain's anatomy remains largely normal, unlike other conditions such as stroke, where damage to the brain is visible," explained Simuni, who is also an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "DaTscan attaches to dopamine neurons which illuminate on the SPECT scan; the more light areas that exist, the more healthy dopamine brain cells remain. If the areas of the brain that should show dopamine remain dark, it may indicate the patient has some type of parkinsonian syndrome."

An accurate clinical diagnosis for patients with neurodegenerative movement disorders, such as Parkinson's, can take up to six years. While symptoms often mimic Parkinson's, other movement disorders, such as essential tremor, occur in different areas of the brain and do not involve the dopamine system.

"Even though they may appear similar, other movement disorders require different management. DaTscan allows us to confirm our diagnosis earlier and start the correct course of treatment sooner," said Simuni. "We are hopeful that this will lead to improved quality of life for these patients with better long term outcomes, as well as protection from unnecessary treatments initiated because of misdiagnosis."

While Simuni does not believe it is necessary for every patient to confirm their Parkinson's diagnosis with DaTscan, she does see it as a valuable tool for patients with uncertain syndromes, or those who have not responded to treatment. She also sees it as a means for improving Parkinson's research by ensuring those enrolled in studies actually have the disease. DaTscan is al
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Contact: Megan McCann
memccann@nmh.org
312-926-5900
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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