Three Banner hospitals offer new brain scan for Parkinson’s
SUN CITY, Ariz. (Aug. 1, 2011) – A new brain imaging scan at three Banner Health hospitals is helping doctors more accurately diagnose Parkinson’s disease, allowing patients to begin treatment earlier and avoid possible misdiagnoses of other conditions with similar symptoms.
Banner Boswell, Banner Good Samaritan and Banner Thunderbird medical centers now offer DaTscanTM, a nuclear medicine imaging study that analyzes dopamine activity in the brain. Dopamine affects the nerve terminals that control movement. The outpatient scan gives doctors visual evidence of abnormal functioning in the area of the brain that controls movement and other muscle functions. This helps physicians confirm a positive diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and rule out other conditions that mimic it, such as essential tremor. While the symptoms are similar, treatment and management greatly differ.
“Having another diagnostic tool to help rule out other neurodegenerative conditions is tremendously helpful in reaching an appropriate and timely diagnosis for patients,” said Holly Shill, MD, a neurologist and movement disorders specialist on staff at Banner Boswell Medical Center. “The misdiagnosis rate can be as high as 30 percent in early Parkinson’s disease. DaTscan significantly improves diagnostic accuracy, and in fact has been proven to be better than the clinician in diagnosing Parkinson’s disease.”
Movement disorders primarily are diagnosed through clinical examinations. Clinical exams alone, particularly early in the disease, are often inconclusive and can result in misdiagnosis. An accurate diagnosis for patients with neurodegenerative movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, can take up to six years.
“We know that most people have lost about 70 percent of the function in their dopamine nerve terminals by the time they’re diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease,” Dr. Shill noted. “With DaTscan, we can begin treatment earlier and avoid misdiagnosis, especially in patients with an earlier onset when symptoms are mild.”
Dr. Shill also serves as director of the Thomas H. Christopher Center for Parkinson's Research at Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, and has been using DaTscan for more than a year as part of the national Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI). The research institute is the only site in Arizona to participate in this five-year observational study funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation to pinpoint biological clues about the progression of the disease. Qualified candidates interested in participating in the PPMI study receive a free DaTscan to determine eligibility.
While DaTscan doesn’t distinguish between types or stages of Parkinson’s disease, having a timely and correct diagnosis can help patients and their families begin a more realistic plan of treatment and it helps overcome fears and frustrations so they can move on with their lives.
DaTscan is FDA-approved and covered by most insurance providers, including Medicare. The study must be ordered by a patient’s neurologist or primary care physician. Patients are encouraged to talk with their physician to determine if DaTscan is appropriate for their condition.
In the United States, 50,000 to 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed each year. It is estimated that as many as 10 million people around the world suffer from the condition.
For more information on Parkinson’s disease, please visit www.bannerhealth.com, keyword: Parkinson’s. To find out more about the PPMI study at Banner Sun Health Research Institute, please call (623) 875-6521.
About Banner Health
Headquartered in Phoenix, Banner Health is one of the largest, nonprofit health care systems in the country. The system owns or leases 23 acute-care hospitals, long-term care centers, outpatient surgery centers and an array of other services including family clinics, home care and hospice services, and a nursing registry. Banner Health is in seven states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.