New Parkinson’s Scan Helps Give Patients Answers
April is Parkinson’s Awareness month and thanks to one Lincolnite, Linda Schmechel, Lincoln’s Parkinson’s Desease (PD) testing has significantly improved in the past year. On October 25, 2018 Linda Schmechel was the first person to receive a DaTscan in Lincoln. DaTscan is a drug that is administered prior to a SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) scan to help a radiologist see whether or not there is degeneration of dopamine transporters in the brain. Studying this degeneration along with a patient’s changes in functioning helps physicians to determine if a patient’s symptoms may be related to Parkinson’s Disease. In Schmechel’s case, her scan was read by a radiologist who found it positive for parkinsonian syndromes (PSs).
Parkinson’s Disease is a disease widely known and typically associated with tremors and shuffling. Schmechel was experiencing the lesser known symptoms of the disease such as coordination and balance issues when she visited with her primary care provider in 2016. Her doctor was the first to suggest the chance of PD to Schmechel. Looking for answers, she attended a medical conference on Parkinson’s Disease and learned that there is much debate on the best way to diagnose. She heard that DaTscan is now commonly used to help differentiate between parkinsonian syndrome (PS) and essential tremor (ET). She then met with a Las Vegas neurologist who diagnosed her with left hemiparesis movement disorder. He stated that only with a positive DaTscan would he be willing to confirm a diagnosis of PD.
As a past patient of Advanced Medical Imaging (AMI; amimaging.com), Schmechel reached out to the imaging center to see if they offered the scan in the spring of 2018. AMI told her they didn’t currently offer DaTscan but were very interested in helping local patients get the answers they need. In October of 2018, Schmechel became the first patient to receive a DaTscan in Lincoln. Since then AMI has continued to see patients for this test and has helped answer their questions. The supply of this radiopharmaceutical is very limited and must be secured in advance to perform a scan. Currently, Advanced Medical Imaging is the only location in the state, west of Omaha, to offer this test.
After receiving the test results, Schmechel recalled, “I was disappointed and stunned. I cried and retreated for a couple of days. People who knew I was having the test would call, but I didn’t feel like talking.” A stroke and stage-four cancer survivor, she remembers telling herself it was time to “face it and handle it.”
When asked what advice she has for other people going through a PD diagnosis Schmechel says “first, learn all you can about it and then get second opinions. Good healthcare providers welcome that. It helps to get a more specific diagnosis.” Because there is so much to remember at these appointments she strongly recommends that people “take a family member or friend into your appointment. Anyone you trust. Have them take notes. Sometimes they will have good questions or remind the physician of something that you did that you forgot or were too embarrassed to mention.” As far as resources go, Schmechel recommends the Michael J. Fox foundation’s website because of the clinical trials they have coordinated and their online resources. “Parkinson’s research is in the place where cancer was 20 years ago,” says Schmechel. “It has gotten better. Much more than ten years ago.”
Patients interested in finding out if the DaTscan could give them the answers they are looking for should talk to their neurologist or primary care provider. More information is also available at AMImaging.com/DaTscan.