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Northwest Community Hospital Among Select Group of Illinois Hospital with DaTscan Imaging Exam for Parkinson’s Disease

Wed December 21 2011 11:34 am
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Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease in its early stages is difficult for even the best physicians because the neurodegenerative movement disorder does not have a specific test and can be confused with other neurological conditions. But doctors at Northwest Community Hospital now can better evaluate patients with suspected parkinsonian syndromes with a brain scan using the first FDA-approved radiopharmaceutical imaging agent.

“It’s a new imaging procedure that keeps us on the cutting edge of nuclear medicine and radiology,” said Dr. Peter Cormier, an NCH radiologist. “We’re excited to bring this level of imaging technology to our patients.”

DaTscan™ is an imaging study performed following the injection of a specialized tracer (Ioflupane (123I)) developed by GE Healthcare. The brain imaging procedure is being conducted at a select group of Illinois hospitals. In simple terms, a patient receives a DaTscan injection and undergoes an advanced brain scan that looks for dopamine – a chemical lacked by Parkinson’s patients that gets visually highlighted by the injection. NCH’s department of nuclear medicine became a DaTscan Imaging Center of Excellence in November.

“Other neurological conditions can be mistaken for Parkinson’s because the symptoms are similar, so this new tool helps us differentiate the diseases and make an accurate diagnosis,” said Dr. Laura Goldstein, an NCH neurologist. “As a result, we’re better able to recommend a course of treatment that fits the patient’s disease.”

Parkinson’s disease occurs when the brain does not get enough dopamine to perform certain functions, leading to tremor, slow movement, muscle stiffness and trouble balancing. The progressive disease, which has no cure, affects nearly 1.5 million people in the United States, with 50,000 to 60,000 new cases identified each year.

Movement disorders are primarily diagnosed through physical examinations. But those clinical exams alone, particularly early in the disease, are often inconclusive and can result in misdiagnosis.

An accurate diagnosis of neurodegenerative movement disorders can take up to six years. With DaTscan and the new imaging exam, doctors are more confident in differentiating between Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders such as essential tremor, which involves an involuntary shaking of the hands, head and face.

“It’s definitely a challenge to differentiate parkinsonian syndromes from other conditions that mimic it, but this new imaging agent and brain scan is a step in the right direction,” Goldstein said. “It helps us move faster at reaching the proper treatment for a patient so the effects of their particular disease can be limited.”

DaTscan (Ioflupane I 123 Injection) works by binding to the dopamine transporter protein on dopaminergic nigrostriatal neurons, a bundle of nerve fibers in the brain (presynaptic dopamine transporters or DAT). The ensuing scan is conducted using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) brain imaging, which examines brain function. The test produces detailed images that provide visual evidence of the presence of dopamine transporters.

To learn more about advances at Northwest Community Hospital, visit the hospital online at

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