Thanks to a new diagnostic imaging technique, physicians now have an objective test to evaluate patients for Parkinsonian syndromes such as Parkinson’s disease. Menorah Medical Center—part of HCA Midwest, Kansas City’s largest healthcare network and private-sector employer—is among the first hospitals in the Kansas City area to offer DaTscan™, the only FDA-approved imaging agent for assessment of movement disorders. Until now, there were no definitive tests to identify Parkinson’s disease, forcing physicians to rely on clinical examinations to make a diagnosis. This advanced diagnostic capability allows doctors to differentiate Parkinson’s from other movement disorders and may help lead to more timely and appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
“The scan by itself does not make the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, but it enables us to identify patients who have loss of dopamine from those who have no dopamine deficiency,” says Ian Belson, MD, of Johnson County Neurology at Menorah Medical Center. “Loss of dopamine-producing cells causes Parkinson’s. This new technique is a very important step in being able to accurately identify and treat movement disorders, and it will hopefully allow us to better understand these diseases over time.”
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects nearly 1.5 million Americans, with an additional 50,000 to 60,000 new cases identified each year. People with Parkinson’s disease lack dopamine in the brain, which leads to tremor, slowness of movement, muscle stiffness and balance problems. Clinical examinations, particularly early in the disease when symptoms are slight, can be inconclusive or lead to misdiagnosis of another movement disorder, such as essential tremor, which share similar symptoms to Parkinson’s disease but require different treatment.
An accurate diagnosis for patients with neurodegenerative movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, can take up to six years. Parkinson’s disease, which currently affects one million people in the U.S., is one of several types of Parkinsonian syndromes.
Steven D. Wilkinson, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer of Menorah Medical Center, says the availability of DaTscan to patients is another way the hospital remains leading-edge in diagnosis, treatment and technological capabilities. “For Menorah to be able to offer something such as DaTscan to patients in their own backyard is part of our mission to serve the community with the most advanced medicine available,” he says. “It’s another reason people can stay in Johnson County for excellent healthcare.”