DaTscan Procedure Information

Your doctor has recommended a DaTscan for you. This noninvasive test will evaluate whether you have a Parkinsonian syndrome. Our team of subspecialized doctors, nurses and technologists who perform this scan is led by, Alessandro D'Angnolo, MD, and Louise E.J. Thomson, MBChB, co-chiefs of Nuclear Medicine.

Why choose the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center for a DaTscan?

DaTscan is a drug that is injected into the bloodstream to assess dopamine containing neurons, which are involved in controlling movement. One of our subspecialized imaging physicians will then use a gamma camera to take pictures of your brain. By analyzing the images, our physician, in consultation with your physician, can help determine whether the symptoms you or your loved one are experiencing are the result of Parkinsonian syndrome. Parkinsonian syndromes occur when certain neurons of the brain undergo degeneration. The DaTscan study is primarily designed to differentiate Parkinsonian syndrome from a relatively benign condition called essential tremor. Essential tremor results in a noticeable tremor which may mimic the Parkinsonian Syndrome. DaTscan is FDA approved to differentiate between essential tremor and Parkinsonian syndrome.

Parkinson’s disease is the most common form of Parkinsonian syndrome, but there are other forms, including multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy. Although DaTscan cannot determine which form of Parkinsonian syndrome you or your loved one has, it can, with other scans and clinical evaluations, help your physician determine whether your are suffering from a Parkinsonian syndrome.  

For patients with dementia, the DaTscan has been successfully used in Europe to separate Alzheimer’s disease from a dementia called Lewy Body disease. This has important implications in determining which medications can be safely used to treat the dementia.

Before the Exam

  • If you can print and fill out the DaTscan Registration Questionnaire, available here, before you come to the imaging center, it will speed the registration process.
  • Please tell the nurse, nuclear imaging technician or nuclear medicine physician if you are pregnant, nursing or have reduced liver function.
  • Please also inform us if you have an allergy or sensitivity to iodine.
  • If you are taking drugs for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or attention deficit disorder, antipsychotics, antidepressants, cocaine, weight-loss medications or smoking-cessation medications, please inform our nurse or physician.
  • If your doctor gave you an order, please bring it with you.

On the Day of the Exam

  • Drink plenty of fluids and go to the bathroom frequently (and for two days after your exam)
  • Wear loose comfortable clothing, since you will need to lie still for a period of time.
  • Please bring a list of all medications that you are taking; name and dosage.
  • We want to make your waiting time as pleasant as possible. Consider bringing your favorite magazine, book or music player to help you pass the time.
  • Please leave your jewelry and valuables at home.

During the Exam

  • The DaTscan once started takes approximately 30-45 minutes. However, following injection of the DaT agent approximately 3-6 hours are required before the agent has achieved appropriate concentration in the brain.
  • One hour before the exam, you will receive a drug to allow you to safely take the iodine required for the scan.
  • Before the scan, DaTscan will be injected through an intravenous (IV) line into your arm. To allow the DaTscan to distribute throughout your body, you will need to wait three to six hours before the imaging test can begin.
  • For the imaging test, you will be asked to lie on a table and an imaging technologist will position your head in a headrest. A strip of tape or a flexible restraint may be placed around your head to help you to not move your head during the scan.
  • A camera will be positioned above you and you must remain very still for about 30 minute while images are taken. The scanner will be very close to your head, but will not touch your head.

After the Exam

  • Please drink plenty of fluids after the exam for two days.
  • Your study will be reviewed by an imaging physician specialist and the results sent to your physician. Your physician will discuss these results with you and explain what they mean in relation to your health.

The S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center provides a full range of advanced imaging, both radiology and cardiology, as well as interventional radiology and interventional tumor (oncology) treatments to the greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, Encino, Mid-Cities, Sherman Oaks, Silver Lake, Studio City, Toluca Lake and West Hollywood.