Nuclear Imaging (DaTscan)

What is a dopamine transporter scan (DaTscan)?

Ioflupane is a drug that is injected into the bloodstream to examine neurons in the brain that contain the chemical messenger dopamine. These neurons are involved in controlling movement; they are affected by Parkinson’s disease and other related conditions.

We can see ioflupane by using a special (gamma) camera that takes pictures of the brain. These images are called DaTscans. One of our nuclear imaging radiologists analyzes the images, in consultation with the rest of the medical team. With this report, we can help determine whether the symptoms a patient is experiencing are the result of Parkinson’s disease or other related conditions.


What happens during this procedure?

One hour before the exam, the patient will receive a drug to allow them to safely take the iodine required for the scan.

Before the scan, the contrast solution (ioflupane) will be injected through an intravenous line into the arm. To allow the solution to distribute throughout the body, the patient will need to wait three to four hours before the imaging test can begin.

For the imaging test, the patient will lie on a table, and an imaging technologist will position their head in a headrest. A strip of tape or a flexible restraint may be placed around the head to help keep it from moving during the scan.

A special camera will be positioned above the patient’s head, and the patient must remain very still for about 30 minutes while images are taken. The scanner will be very close to the head but will not touch it.


How long will the test take?

The scan takes about 30 to 45 minutes. There is no anticipated recovery time after the procedure. But before the scan can begin, the patient must wait three to four hours after the DaT agent is injected in order for the drug to reach the required concentration levels.


What preparations are needed before a DaTscan?

A patient undergoing a DaTscan should prepare in the following ways:

  • Fill out all required forms before coming in for the appointment, including the DaTscan Questionnaire (PDF).
  • Wear comfortable, easy-to-remove clothing, because the patient must change into a hospital gown before undergoing the test.
  • Let the doctor know about all medications the patient is taking, as well as any allergies to iodine. The medical team performing the procedure should also be informed if the patient is pregnant or nursing, or has reduced liver function.
  • Leave all valuables at home.
  • Bring a relaxing CD to listen to or a book to read while waiting for the DaT agent to reach the required concentration levels.


Does a DaTscan cause discomfort?

Although the test is noninvasive, some patients may experience discomfort from lying on their back for an extended period of time. Because the machine can be confining, patients with claustrophobia may also feel uncomfortable during the scanning process.


What will happen after the test is complete?

It is important for all patients who have had a DaTscan to drink plenty of fluids for up to two days after the procedure. This helps eliminate the DaTscan agent more efficiently.

The images taken during the scan will be reviewed by an imaging physician before being sent to the patient’s physician, who will then review the findings with the patient.

There is no recovery time expected after a DaTscan. Patients are free to return to their normal activities once the test is over.

For an appointment, a second opinion or more information, please call 1-800-CEDARS-1 (1-800-233-2771) or email us at neurologicaldisorders@cshs.org.