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Nuclear Medicine: DaTscan

Nuclear Medicine : DaTscan | Preparation Guidelines | Frequently Asked Questions


The First and Only FDA- Approved Visual Adjunct Imaging Agent to Aid in the Differentiation Between Essential Tremor and Parkinsonian Syndromes

LHR is currently the only outpatient private radiology practice in NYC to offer DaTscan for evaluating Parkinsonian Syndromes (PS), including Parkinson's Disease (PD), Multisystem Atrophy (MSA) and Progressive Supranuclear Oalsy (PSP) and differentiating them from benign essential tremor.

About DaTscan:

DaTscan is an imaging drug that will be injected into the bloodstream to help your doctor assess a chemical involved in controlling movement, called dopamine. A special device, called a gamma camera, will take pictures of your brain. These pictures and a report will be sent to your doctor, who can discuss the test results with you. The DaTscan Parkinsonian syndromes occur when the brain is not getting enough of the dopamine it needs to perform certain functions. This affects the ability of the brain to control movement and other muscle functions.

There are different types of Parkinsonian syndromes. The most common is Parkinson’s disease, also known as PD. Other types include multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy. DaTscan cannot distinguish between these different syndromes. In combination with other tests and the clinical assessment of your particular symptoms, DaTscan may help your doctor determine if you are suffering from a Parkinsonian syndrome.

The DaTscan test will be performed in the nuclear medicine department of our facility. DaTscan is for adult patients who have signs or symptoms of Parkinsonian syndromes, such as shaking or stiffness. DaTscan is available only with a prescription from your doctor, and only your doctor can decide if this test is right for you.

How to Prepare for a DaTscan Test
Be sure to follow your doctor’s orders when preparing for this test.
Tell your doctor if you:
• Have any allergies or other medical conditions
• Are pregnant, nursing, or planning to become pregnant
• Have reduced kidney or liver function
Tell your doctor if you are currently taking any of the following drugs:
• Drugs for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) (eg, Adderall XR®, Ritalin®)
• Antipsychotics
• Antidepressants (eg, Wellbutrin®, Zoloft®)
• Cocaine
• Weight-loss medications or appetite suppressants
• Smoking cessation medications
Your doctor will tell you whether or not you need to stop using these drugs for a short period of time before your DaTscan test.

On the day of the test:
• Drink plenty of fluids and go to the bathroom frequently before your DaTscan test (and for two days afterwards)
• Wear loose, comfortable clothing because you will have to lie still for a period of time
• Bring a list of all the medications you are taking

What to expect during the test:
The entire process takes several hours. The test will be performed by a specially trained healthcare professional; this may be a doctor, nurse, or technologist.
  • At least one hour before the DaTscan dose, you will receive another drug to prevent the iodine in DaTscan from going into your thyroid, which may increase the risk of a type of thyroid cancer
  • Before the test begins, DaTscan will be injected through an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. Because it takes time for DaTscan to be appropriately distributed in the body, you will need to wait three to six hours after this injection for the imaging test to begin
  • For the imaging test, you will be asked to lie on a table and the healthcare professional will position you on a headrest. A strip of tape, or some other flexible restraint, may be placed across your forehead or chin to prevent your head from moving during the test
  • A camera will be positioned above you. It will be very close to your head, but it should not touch you. You must try to remain as still as possible while the camera takes pictures (about 30 minutes)

What are Parkinsonian syndromes (PS)?

Parkinsonian syndromes develop when the nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine are impaired. When the dopaminergic system is impaired, the brain may lose the ability to control movement and motor functions. Parkinsonian syndromes include Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, and progressive supranuclear palsy. DaTscan cannot distinguish between these disorders.

What are the symptoms of PS?

The most common symptoms are tremor (shaking); slowness of movement; rigidity (stiffness); difficulty with balance; small, cramped handwriting; stiff facial expression; shuffling walk; muffled speech; and depression. Symptoms will vary from person to person.

What is the essential tremor (ET)?

Essential tremor is a condition of the brain that causes a rhythmic shaking, usually during purposeful or voluntary movement. The condition can affect almost any part of the body, but the trembling occurs most often in the hands while attempting to do simple tasks such as drinking from a glass, tying shoelaces, or writing. Although usually not a dangerous condition, ET can be severe in some people. The condition can occur at any age but is most common in older adults.

Why is it difficult to diagnose PS?

Unfortunately, the symptoms of PS are very similar to symptoms of other disorders, like ET. Additionally, there is no FDA-approved blood test or imaging procedure that can confirm the presence of these disorders.

Is DaTscan safe?

As with all radiopharmaceuticals, there are side effects related to DaTscan. Sensitivity reactions (such as rash or itching) have been reported after DaTscan administration. In clinical trials, the most common side effects were headache, nausea, dry mouth, or dizziness. These occurred in less than 1% of patients studied. Please speak with your doctor about any other questions or concerns you may have.

Will a SPECT scan with DaTscan diagnose my condition?

SPECT imaging with DaTscan may—along with other diagnostic tests and clinical assessments— help your doctor determine if your symptoms are due to ET or PS. Your doctor will use these findings in addition to other test results and assessments to make a decision about the best treatment plan for you.

Will my insurance cover DaTscan?

All insurance plans are different and vary from carrier to carrier. DaTscan is covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. Before the test, please discuss any further questions about insurance with your doctor or our billing department.