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Picturing Parkinson's

NCH employs promising new brain scan for the diagnosis of Parkinson's

As anyone who has witnessed the effects of Parkinson's disease knows, the difficulty with everyday tasks brought on by the disease can be devastating.

Diagnosing Parkinson's has traditionally been very tricky, but the process just got a boost thanks to an FDA-approved imaging test called DaTscan™, which can help identify the disease.

This is good news for the nearly 1.5 million people in the U.S. who are living with Parkinson's. It is also good news for those who live in the northwest suburbs, since Northwest Community Hospital is among a select group of Illinois hospitals with the new imaging exam.

How the DaTscan Works to Diagnose Parkinson's Disease

Hand or face tremors, speech difficulties, or limb stiffness are common Parkinson's symptoms. Still, diagnosing Parkinson's can be difficult for two reasons: there is no conclusive diagnostic test, and other movement disorders mimic the disease.

DaTscan may help.

"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," says Laura Goldstein, MD, an NCH neurologist.

Here's how it works: First, the patient receives an injection of a specialized tracer developed by GE Healthcare. Following the injection, an advanced brain scan looks for dopamine—a chemical that is lacking in Parkinson's patients—that is then visually highlighted by the injection.

What It Could Mean for Patients with Parkinson's

Without DaTscan, an accurate diagnosis of Parkinson's can take up to six years. This often involves a frustrating cycle of inconclusive clinical exams, neuropsychological evaluations, blood tests and prolonged anxiety for patients.

With DaTscan, the time to diagnosis may be much shorter, allowing patients quicker access to treatments that can provide dramatic relief from symptoms. "It helps us move faster at reaching the proper treatment for a patient so the effects of their particular disease can be limited," Dr. Goldstein says.

Peter Cormier, MD, an NCH radiologist, says DaTscan keeps NCH on the cutting edge of nuclear medicine and radiology, a reflection of a commitment to helping patients through advanced technology. "We're excited to bring this level of imaging technology to our patients," he says.

Andrew Peters, MD

Laura G. Goldstein, MD

Neurologist at NCH

  • Board Certified: Neurology
  • Medical School, Internship And Residency: University Of Michigan
  • Fellowship: University Of Iowa

Andrew Peters, MD

Peter Cormier, MD

Diagnostic Radiologist at NCH

  • Board Certified: Radiology
  • Medical School: University Of Illinois
  • Residency: Northwestern Memorial Hospital

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Last Updated 04/10/2009