Background and aims: Functional pre-synaptic dopamine brain imaging is generally abnormal when parkinsonism is degenerative (such as in idiopathic Parkinson's disease) and normal in patients with non-degenerative movement disorder (such as essential tremor). However, some patients diagnosed as early Parkinson's disease have normal presynaptic dopamine imaging. Follow-up of patients with normal imaging should help determine whether such patients truly have degenerative parkinsonism (and therefore represent false negative imaging results), or emerge as cases of non-degenerative parkinsonism (and therefore represent initial clinical over-diagnosis of Parkinson's disease).
Methods and results: One hundred and fifty cases with normal I-FP-CIT SPECT undertaken during routine care over a 3-year period were reviewed 2.4 years (interquartile range, 2.2-3.1 years) after SPECT. Diagnosis after follow-up was non-degenerative parkinsonism or tremor in 146 (97%), who did not progress clinically, and degenerative parkinsonism in four (3%), in whom clinical progression was noted. Anti-Parkinson therapy was used in 36, and withdrawn in 27 with no deterioration in 25. Patients strictly fulfilling Brain Bank criteria (part 1) were more likely to undergo a trial of anti-Parkinson therapy (P < 0.05) but were no more likely to maintain or respond to anti-Parkinson therapy than those not fulfilling criteria.
Conclusion: The clinical profile and therapy response during follow-up of patients with normal presynaptic dopamine imaging supports the diagnosis of a non-degenerative movement disorder in nearly all cases.