Role of dopamine transporter SPECT for the practitioner and the general neurologist



The accurate clinical diagnosis of parkinsonism may be impeded by atypical presentations and confounding comorbidity. The presence of parkinsonism is misdiagnosed in up to a quarter of cases in general practice. Movement disorder specialists misdiagnose parkinsonian syndromes using histopathological findings as the “gold standard” in up to 10% of cases. Dopamine transporter SPECT represents a simple and fast method to confirm nigrostriatal degeneration in a given patient. This study provides several case reports to illustrate when dopamine transporter SPECT might be carried out and discusses whether dopamine transporter SPECT should be used in primary health care practice or by general neurologists in uncertain cases. Ideally, all possible cases of parkinsonism should be referred to a neurologist experienced in the field of movement disorders. If this could be achieved then the role of dopamine transporter SPECT in the general practitioner's or local neurologist's practice would be extremely limited. Future studies must clarify whether it is cost effective to generously perform dopamine transporter SPECTs to minimize the time until parkinsonism can be diagnosed. © 2003 Movement Disorder Society