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St. Anthony’s Hospital One of First in Nation to Offer Early Test for Parkinson’s Disease

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (July 20, 2011) – St. Anthony’s Hospital is one of the first hospitals in the nation to offer a new test that can provide an earlier diagnosis for patients suffering from symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease.

DaTscan is a drug injected into the bloodstream and works by binding to dopamine transporters in the brain. The drug, which assesses neurodegenerative movement disorders, is being offered at about 80 hospitals nationwide.

DaTscan will help in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in early stages when there are minimal signs, said Saleem Raza Khamisani, MD, a neurologist. “This is the first drug on the market to give an early answer as to whether a patient has or is susceptible to Parkinson’s,” Dr. Khamisani said. “There has been no reliable test for Parkinson’s before.”

“We always search for ways to provide advanced care to the community and we are looking forward to be able to provide patients with this ground-breaking test,” said William Ulbricht, St. Anthony’s president.

The FDA approved DaTscan, produced by GE, in January. The drug and subsequent brain scan help to differentiate Parkinsonian syndromes from essential tremors, which is a type of involuntary shaking movement in which no cause can be identified.  

“It is important to determine if the symptoms a patient is experiencing might be attributed to Parkinson’s disease or to something else,” Dr. Khamisani said. “One of the great benefits of this test is that now we will be able to make the diagnosis at a much earlier stage and allow us to set up a treatment plan for patients much sooner.”

The hospital already has performed a handful of the tests and the results have proven significant.

 “This is a good test for someone who is in the early stages of Parkinson’s but may not know it,” Dr. Khamisani said. “We think this is great step in getting treatment to patients much faster. And with the development of new medications for disease modification, it will benefit patients to be treated early to slow the disease process.”

A patient is given DaTscan upon arrival for an appointment. About three hours later, the test, called a SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) Brain Scan, is administered by a nuclear medicine technologist. The SPECT Brain Scan is primarily used to show how blood flows through arteries and veins in the brain. The scan reveals which areas of the brain are more active or less active.

Once the test is completed, the data is interpreted by a St. Anthony’s neuroradiologist. “We can then determine if the patient is suffering from Parkinson’s or another disease,” Dr. Khamisani said. “With this test we are able to make that diagnosis more definitively.”

For more information, please contact St. Anthony’s Hospital at (727) 953-6993.

About St. Anthony’s Hospital

St. Anthony’s Hospital is a 395-bed hospital founded in 1931 as a ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany and is the first and only faith-based hospital in Pinellas County. As St. Anthony’s celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2011, the hospital continues its rich history dedicated to improving the health of the community by providing high-quality, innovative and compassionate care. In 2010, St. Anthony’s Hospital earned the prestigious ENERGY STAR award by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for superior energy efficiency for a second year.  St. Anthony’s Susan Sheppard McGillicuddy Breast Center is the only breast center in St. Petersburg honored with accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) and the American College of Radiology (ACR).

About BayCare Health System

BayCare Health System is a leading community-based health system in the Tampa Bay area. Composed of a network of 10 not-for-profit hospitals, outpatient facilities and services such as imaging, lab, behavioral health and home health care, BayCare provides expert medical care throughout a patient’s lifetime. With more than 200 access points conveniently located throughout Tampa Bay, BayCare connects patients to a complete range of preventive, diagnostic and treatment services for any health care need. 

BayCare’s family of hospitals are: Mease Countryside, Mease Dunedin, Morton Plant, Morton Plant North Bay, St. Anthony’s, St. Joseph’s, St. Joseph’s Children’s, St. Joseph’s Hospital-North, St. Joseph’s Women’s, and South Florida Baptist. For more information, visit BayCare on the Web at www.BayCare.org.

Contacts: Beth Hardy, (727) 298-6199 Phone, (727) 402-8113 Pager
                   Sherry Robinson, (727) 825-1445 Phone, (727) 257-7052 Pager