The first imaging agent approved by the FDA for use in capturing images of the brain is now being used by neurologists at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital to accurately diagnose patients with a parkinsonian syndrome, a group of conditions that includes Parkinson’s disease.

DaTscan™ is a radioactive agent that is injected into the bloodstream and flows to the brain, where it can be easily seen with special imaging technology called a SPECT camera. SPECT imaging with DaTscan can help physicians determine if a patient’s movement difficulties are due to a parkinsonian syndrome or another condition known as an essential tremor.

In a normal scan, the imaging agent’s activity will appear as mirrored comma or crescent shapes if sufficient dopamine transporters (DaT) are intact or not affected. In an abnormal scan, the activity will appear in circular or oval shapes on one or both sides.

“This imaging agent is a step in the right direction for the timely and accurate diagnosis of patients with parkinsonian syndromes, including Parkinson’s disease,” said Toby Yaltho, M.D., fellowship-trained movement disorder neurologist at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital. “Without these detailed images of the brain, we rely solely on clinical examinations, which can be inconclusive, especially in the early stages of the disease.”

There are several different types of parkinsonian syndromes, with Parkinson’s disease being the most well-known. Parkinson’s disease affects more than one million Americans, but the disease – along with other parkinsonian syndrome conditions – can be difficult to diagnose.

“The challenge for physicians is differentiating parkinsonian syndromes from other conditions, such as essential tremor, that mimic it,” said Yaltho. “While the symptoms are similar, treatment and prognosis differ. Having another diagnostic tool to help in these challenging cases will help tremendously in reaching an appropriate and timely diagnosis for patients.”

Consult with your physician to find out if DaTscan is right for you. Visit our Facebook for the latest news, events and information.