“It is important to provide patients with an early diagnosis to ensure proper treatment,” said Dr. Eidelberg. “Also, if people are enrolled in clinical trials for Parkinson’s treatments, we want to know that we have enrolled the right patients.”
“The pathology is totally different but the earliest symptoms are so similar,” said Chris C. Tang, MD, the lead investigator of the study. Patients in the study were treated by movement disorder specialists, and after almost three years, the final diagnoses were matched with the initial findings on the brain scans. There was a 98 percent match suggesting that the scans could be used with great accuracy to diagnose correctly very early in the disease process.
The findings were published in the February edition of The Lancet Neurology. Dr. Eidelberg said that PET imaging can help clinicians more accurately diagnose Parkinson’s and other atypical movement disorders that share symptoms.
The researchers have mapped out distinct brain networks for each of the movement disorders. The studies suggest that MSA and PSP progress much faster than Parkinson’s. There are no effective treatments for MSA or PSP and using medicines for Parkinson’s disease can make things worse.
PET is an expensive tool and is not used routinely to help diagnosis Parkinson’s. They are expanding the study to include a larger number of patients.
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