Various types of scans can be carried out to examine the anatomy and functioning of the brain and other parts of the nervous system. These can help to distinguish Parkinson’s from other conditions with similar symptoms. Your specialist may recommend one or more of the following scans:
CT (Computerised Tomography) scan
This technique involves X-rays being passed through the body from different angles to build up cross-section pictures of the brain. It may help to rule vascular disease and tumours as the cause of Parkinson’s-like symptoms.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan
This uses magnetic charges rather than X-rays to form images of the brain or other parts of the body. It can help to distinguish Parkinson’s from Parkinson’s-like conditions such as PSP and MSA.
This scan is used to identify loss of the dopamine-producing cells in the brain, which leads to Parkinson’s. It can be used to distinguish Parkinson’s from conditions with similar symptoms, such as Essential Tremor.
PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan
This imaging technique can be used to help diagnose Parkinson’s, but as it is more expensive and not as readily available as SPECT, it is mainly used in research.
New imaging techniques are being developed and research is also underway into new blood and skin tests that can detect Parkinson’s, but it may be some years before these become available. It is also hoped that a reliable smell test may be developed, as loss of smell is one of the earliest signs of Parkinson’s.