Dopamine transporter single photon emission computerized tomography in the diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies

Mov Disord. 2009;24 Suppl 2:S754-9. doi: 10.1002/mds.22591.


Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is part of the spectrum of Lewy body disorders. However, it may be difficult to diagnose patients who have dementia but no Parkinsonism. Visual and semiquantitative assessment of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic nerve terminals in the putamen and caudate nuclei can be obtained with single photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) using ligands that bind to the dopamine transporter molecule in the membranes of the nigrostriatal nerve terminals. This can be employed as a means of identifying subclinical degeneration of nigrostriatal neurones in patients with suspected DLB, increasing the probability of the diagnosis. In several studies, the sensitivity and specificity of abnormal dopamine transporter scans with regard to diagnosing probable DLB are better than 75 and 90%, respectively. This communication outlines the evidence for this and discusses some of the advantages, potential disadvantages, and areas of uncertainty with regard to the use of dopamine transporter SPECT in DLB diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lewy Body Disease / diagnosis
  • Lewy Body Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neostriatum / diagnostic imaging
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Substantia Nigra / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods*


  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins