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What is a DaTscan?

doctor explaining a brain scanDaTscan involves the injection of a small amount of an iodine-based radioactive material into the bloodstream to help doctors assess the level of dopamine receptor cells in the brain. Dopamine is chemical messenger that transmits messages between nerve cells and muscles, which ultimately helps control movement. With Parkinson’s disease, dopamine cells degenerate. This causes the patient to experience problems with movement, such as walking and dexterity.

There are a few different types of Parkinsonian syndromes, with the most common being Parkinson’s disease (PD). Other types include multiple system atrophy (MSA) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). While DaTscan cannot distinguish between these syndromes, your doctor can help determine your diagnosis with other tests and clinical assessments of your particular symptoms.

Who Should Get a DaTscan?

DaTscan is typically recommended for adult patients who have signs or symptoms of Parkinsonian syndromes, including shaking or stiffness. DaTscan is available only with a prescription from your doctor. Ask your doctor if this test is right for you.

Is DaTscan Safe?

While DaTscan is FDA-approved, there are side effects related to DaTscan, as with all radiopharmaceuticals. 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.

What You Can Expect

On arrival, you will be given an oral liquid medicine to block the uptake of the iodine by the thyroid. One hour later, you will be given an intravenous injection of the radioactive tracer. This feels very similar to a blood test and has no side effects. The images are taken about 3 hours after the injection. You will be asked to lie on your back on a bed with your head in a small cradle. Two cameras will move around your head to create the images, but they do not touch the head. The images take about 25 minutes to acquire.

After all the images are completed, the technologist will check them before you go home. We will not be able to give out the result of the study immediately, but a written report will be sent to the referring doctor. Contact us today to schedule a DaTscan with our neuroradiology team!