Resting and postural tremor may occur in essential tremor (ET) and Parkinson's disease (PD). The aim of the present study was to investigate the cocaine derivative [123I]beta-CIT, which labels striatal dopamine transporters, and SPECT in differentiating these diseases.
Methods: 30 healthy volunteers, 32 patients with ET and 29 patients with idiopathic PD of Hoehn/Yahr stage I were investigated. Specific over nondisplaceable binding ratios (target/cerebellum-1) were calculated for the striatum, the caudate nucleus and the putamen separately as well as a ratio putamen/caudate and the percent deviation of each patient's ratio from age-expected control values.
Results: Striatal [123I]beta-CIT binding ratios in ET were within normal ranges and showed only a discrete elevation to age-expected control values (+14.6%). In PD significantly reduced specific binding was evident not only contralaterally to the clinically affected side (putamen: -62%, caudate nucleus: -35%), but also ipsilaterally (putamen: -45%, caudate nucleus: -22%). All investigated parameters differed significantly between PD and controls and ET respectively.
Conclusion: Imaging striatal dopamine transporters with [123I]beta-CIT and SPECT could clearly distinguish between ET and PD in an early stage of the disease. Findings do not suggest a subclinical involvement of dopaminergic nigrostriatal neurons in ET.