Picking up Parkinson's early

October 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Imagine being told you have a devastating disease, and then finding out your doctor was wrong. Up to 30 percent of people diagnosed with early Parkinson's disease are misdiagnosed. Now, two very different tools are aiming to cut those mistakes and help patients get the treatment they need.

His brother and sister have it, so Lane Scott wasn't surprised when his doctor said the disease had hit him too.

"He said I do believe you have Parkinson's," Lane Scott said.

But months later, he got surprising news. A new test called the DatScan showed he did not have Parkinson's.

"The DatScan actually measures that level of dopamine in the brain by directly targeting the dopamine transporter in the brain," Holly Shill, M.D. a neurologist a Banner Boswell Medical Center, explained.

Less than five minutes after the test is complete, radiologists can see the results. When the brain's dopamine supply is normal, the pattern of the receptors have a crescent or comma shape.

"Getting the diagnosis early on will help us to select those patients who may be candidates for treatments that may slow progression or hopefully stop progression," Dr. Shill said.

Another new test being developed could help diagnose Parkinson's over the phone in 30 seconds! Just like your arms and legs your vocal organs are affected by the disease. A team headed by MIT's doctor Max Little is working on a system that uses special software to predict Parkinson's based on how you say certain sounds. In a small study, the test was proven to be 99-percent accurate. For Lane, the accuracy of the DatScan changed his life.

"It's hard to express the relief and the joy i experienced in knowing that no, I don't have Parkinson's," Lane said.

With a quick three minute call you can help researchers with the Parkinson's voice initiative. They're looking to collect 10 thousand voices of people with and without Parkinson's worldwide. Their goal is to collect enough recordings to make the software reliable enough to work outside the lab, and potentially screen for the early signs of the disease. For more information on what number to call go to http://www.parkinsonsvoice.org.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Holly Shill, MD
Banner Health
(623) 832-6500


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