Sarasota Memorial Hospital in the US state of Florida has deployed what it claims to be the first and only FDA-approved test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease (PD).
The test, which combines a new drug and a high-tech nuclear brain scan, will help the physicians to differentiate Parkinson from essential tremor syndromes and treat early-stage Parkinson patients.
The new technology, called DaTscan, identifies if and where a dopamine deficiency is occurring using an injected drug and single photon emission computed tomography.
The scan produces images that offer visual evidence based on the density of dopamine transporters (DaT) in the brain.
The hospital has screened 55 patients so far and 34 cases confirmed a PD diagnosis, 19 cases were normal and two more are pending results.
Sarasota neurologist Dean Sutherland said the test results are about 95% accurate.
Due to the significant side effects of Parkinson medications, sometimes doctors will not prescribe them until the possibility of essential tremor has been eliminated.
"Remaining in diagnostic limbo may mean a lack of treatment and information at a critical time in the patient’s disease and in their life, and that uncertainty can be all-consuming for some people," Sutherland added.
"Very good studies in Europe and the US show that tremors are misdiagnosed in 25% of cases, even by neurologists who specialise in movement disorders. Imagine if you were on Parkinson medication for five years only to find out that you didn’t have it."
PD, which affects the ability of the brain to control movement and other muscle functions, occurs when the brain does not receive enough dopamine to carry out certain functions.