Brain scan determines Parkinson's disease vs. tremor disorder

Brain scan determines Parkinson's disease vs. tremor disorder

Parkinson's disease is often misdiagnosed. But now there is a new kind of brain scan that can measure cell loss so that patients know for sure if they have Parkinson's or a tremor disorder.

The symptoms started seven years ago for 43-year-old Barbara Smith and they have intensified.  "The shaking in my right hand, complete right arm, the tension, shaking in my legs, and just not being able to sleep, always tense, very uncomfortable," she said.

Symptoms like Barbara experienced are typically how patients are diagnosed.  "Which means 20 to 25 percent of the time there's a misdiagnosis there," said Dr. Nestor Galvez, neurology chairman with the Cleveland Clinic.

A new imaging test, called DAT scan, is giving doctors a glimpse inside the Parkinson's brain, telling them if a patient has Parkinson's or a tremor disorder.

Doctors inject patients with a tracer. Then they scan the brain for dopamine, a chemical that Parkinson's patients lack.  "The purpose of the scan is to have a way of measuring the amount of cell loss or dopamine loss in a person that you suspect has Parkinson's," said Dr. Galvez.

By zeroing in on the cells that produce dopamine and causing them to light up, doctors can see areas of cell loss.

Southwest Louisiana measures fairly high with other areas of prevalence of Parkinson's disease throughout the country, including the Northeast.  That is one reason why the local Parkinson's Association of the South is fighting for more funding for this sort of technology.

Barbara hopes the scan can determine whether or not she actually has Parkinson's disease or a tremor disorder.  "This test will give me some kind of answer finally whether it is or isn't, I need to know," she said.

A scan that can help shed light on a disease affecting 1.5 million people in the United States - several of them in our community.

DAT scan is the first FDA approved diagnostic imaging test for the assessment of movement disorders such as Parkinson's.

Source: NBC Newschannel

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