How PET-CT Scans help Diagnosing, Staging & Treatment for Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is a disease that affects 1 million people and estimated reports claim that as many as 50,000 to 60,000 new cases are diagnosed per year. The disease has gained more notoriety and support since celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali have revealed their conditions to the public. Thanks in part to their courageous choice to live in the spotlight with their disease, there more hope for finding a cure and counseling those diagnosed each year.

Neurodegenerative diseases are both emotionally and physically taxing. Whether it is Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or Huntington’s, these kind of diseases can be hereditary and can present in different ways. For some there is a type of foreknowledge if a parent or family member had the same disease but for many, these kind of diseases come as a shock. After the initial diagnosis, most often people want to know how advanced their disease is. There are several tests that doctors will perform to determine a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

To begin, questions are posed to the patient in regards to their daily life and movements. Has there been increased difficulty performing any of these tasks? Pain performing these tasks? Forgetfulness or lethargy where there was once more energy? After that, the doctor will perform a physical test looking to see the presence of tremors, face slanting, stiffness in the neck and limbs, and balance irregularities. Other tests to test motor functionality are done to see how a patient moves and the time it takes them to perform certain tasks to see if there is a slowing or difficulty.

One method of diagnosis that has been particularly important in studying these diseases and their symptoms is medical imaging. After these preliminary tests are conclusive for Parkinson’s, doctors may prescribe a PET-CT scan to patient. PET scans or positron emission tomography, is a way of imaging the brain that makes deciphering between diseased and healthy tissue the easiest.

Like a traditional CT scan, doctors administer a radioactive drug into the bloodstream that reacts when coming into contact with diseased tissue. The brain is an organ, made up of tissue and billions of nerve cells. Diseases like Parkinson’s cause degeneration in dopamine neurons located in the midbrain. By injecting the radioactive drug 18-fluorodopa into the bloodstream, the PET machine measures the presence of these neurons as highlighted by the drug. It may be worrying to see the word “radioactive” but the drug is an extremely low dose and the procedure only takes 30-45 minutes at most. It is a non-invasive and helps doctors to determine progression of diseases and recommend further treatment.

If you have more questions about Parkinson’s and PET-CT scans, feel free to contact Doctors Imaging office in Metairie at 504-883-8111 or by filling out this online form.

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