Innovative Assessment for Parkinson’s Disease
By Brian Grabert, MD-Neurologist & Pio Hocate, MD-Radiologist with Colorado Springs Health Partners, PC, Colorado Springs LIVING WELL Magazine
Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, and locally, Davis Phinney (a Colorado cyclist) have all helped to bring Parkinson’s into the public eye; however, Parkinsonian syndrome was first documented in the early 1800s. There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, which is misdiagnosed 47% of the time in community settings and 15% in disease research trials. Fortunately, options for diagnosing and assessing Parkinson’s are more advanced than ever.
The DaTscan (Dopamine Transporter Scan) study is one of these diagnostic tools designed to differentiate Parkinsonian syndrome from a relatively benign condition called essential tremor. DaTscan was recently approved by the FDA and is a radioactive agent called Iofulupane I 123 (or phenyltropane), which is injected into the bloodstream to assess dopamine-containing neurons involved in controlling movement. A gamma camera takes an image of the brain, which is then analyzed to determine if the neurons are undergoing any degeneration.
The DaT protein is the site of binding of the drug and the active component of DaTscan. The DaTscan examines the function of the brain as opposed to its anatomy. This is a key benefit of the test since the anatomy of a brain with Parkinson’s is fairly normal, unlike the anatomy of a stroke or tumor patient’s brain. The scan has 97% sensitivity in diagnosing Parkinson’s and actually shows change in the brain’s chemistry.
A DaTscan must be referred by a neurologist who works with a nuclear imaging team to perform and analyze the study. The results assist the neurologist to clarify the true disease, since Parkinson’s is a disease that often does not have a lot of visible symptoms. Other diagnoses that are sometimes confused with Parkinson’s disease are essential tremor, dementia with Parkinson’s signs and symptoms, Parkinson’s disease tremor without dopamine deficiency or patients who show early symptoms but do not meet the clinical criteria for Parkinson’s.
When a patient has been clinically diagnosed and is responding to medications, a DaTscan is not necessary. To learn more about the DaTscan for Parkinson’s disease assessment, contact Colorado Springs Health Partners nuclear imaging department at 719-667-4137. They are the first practice in Colorado Springs to make the study available, and just the fourth in Colorado.