FDA Approves DaTscan to aid in the diagnosis of movement disorders


On January 18, 2011 the Food and Drug Administration approved DaTscan, a brain imaging compound, to help physicians differentiate between essential tremor and parkinsonian syndromes, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy. This is the first FDA-approved diagnostic imaging agent to aid in the diagnosis of progressive movement disorders.

Diagnosing movement disorders, especially in the early stage, can be challenging with clinical exam alone. Where the clinical exam is inconclusive, physicians can now use DaTscan to detect the loss of nerve cells in an area of the brain that release dopamine, a chemical messenger which regulates movement. Parkinsonian syndromes feature a loss of dopamine-producing cells; essential tremor does not. It is important to note that DaTscan cannot differentiate between parkinsonian syndromes.

DaTscan is not yet approved for the diagnosis of Lewy body dementias in the United States. However, in Europe DaTscan has been approved for years to differentiate between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies, in addition to between parkinsonian syndromes and essential tremor.

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