Thursday, May 28, 2009
New SPECT scans study brain function instead of the structure
By Dr. Anthony Policastro

I have had a number of parents come and ask me about SPECT scans. The acronym stands for Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography. It is a brain imaging study that uses radioactive tracers to study brain function. Most other scans like CT and MRI pay more attention to brain structure. SPECT scans are still relatively new. There are some things that have been studied enough to have these scans be useful in diagnosis. These include things like Alzheimer's disease, dementia, seizure disorders, stroke, traumatic brain injury and brain poisons such as carbon monoxide or substance abuse. Physicians may find the information from SPECT scans useful in these disorders. The information is then used with other tests to determine the location and degree of problems. Recently, there have been further studies suggesting that SPECT might be useful in other disorders in the future. Most of these studies are still experimental, which means we do not have enough of them done to be able to get all the information we need. Over the next few years we will have that information. At that point, SPECT scans will become much more useful for newer disorders such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, learning disorders and autism. These disorders all have two things in common. The first is that making a diagnosis right now is difficult. We usually have to use a lot of information from the history to make the diagnosis. The second is that there is not a clear cut test that will make the diagnosis. Therefore, many people with these disorders are looking for a test that can make the diagnosis. Unfortunately, at the present time, we can do little more than say when a test looks normal or not. An abnormal test might mean different things. After we gather more information, then we will have more of an understanding of just which findings mean what. In the meantime, any information from such tests is still useful but not conclusive. There are some individuals with a clear cut diagnosis. For that reason, the SPECT scan provided little additional information. In patients with an unclear diagnosis, the SPECT scan may be helpful. Even then it has to be used with other available information. Since SPECT scans are relatively inexpensive to set up, they are easy to arrange. The people that do them outside of the research setting will often indicate that they are a lot more accurate than is really the case. There are a lot of stories of people with one diagnosis and a SPECT scan suggested the diagnosis was wrong. However, those are the exceptions rather than the rule. In most cases, the use of SPECT scan adds little to the clinical picture. That will all change in the future.

Sussex County EMS to purchase 11 new automatic CPR devices Thanks to a Sussex County Council decision on Tuesday, May 19, 11 cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) assist devices will be purchased for all primary Paramedic Response Units in the county. The devices automatically perform CPR chest compressions on patients, enabling paramedics, EMTs and firefighters in moving ambulances to remain safely buckled in their seats and focused on other aspects of patient care. The purchase makes Sussex County EMS the first agency in Delaware to purchase and use such technology. "These devices will improve survival rates for our patients while improving the safety of our public safety workers," said Sussex County EMS Director Glenn Luedtke. "The CPR-assist devices perform mechanical chest compressions that take the place of manual CPR. American Heart Association research has demonstrated that patients who suffer cardiac arrests have shown better survival rates when these devices have been used in place of manual CPR." The American Heart Association also has shown through its research that most people cannot perform CPR effectively after one or two minutes, due mostly to fatigue. That often forces acute-care providers to routinely switch positions when performing manual CPR, which could result in decreased efficiency and lost time. The total cost of the project is approximately $167,000, with Sussex County funding a little more than $90,000. The balance will be made up with funds from the State of Delaware. The new devices could be in use later this summer.

Look Good...Feel Better Women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer can now receive free professional help to cosmetically disguise the appearance-related side effects of their treatments. Look Good...Feel Better, a program developed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cosmetology Association, trains volunteer cosmetologists to help women with cancer, conceal loss of hair, skin problems and other side effects that can result from cancer therapy. The next program will be hosted by the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital on Monday, June 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Cancer Care Center's 2nd floor conference room. The program is free to all patients in active cancer treatment. Registration is required, and space is limited. To register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center at 629-6611, ext. 2588.

Cancer Support Group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a General Cancer Support Group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones. The free monthly support group meets in the Second Floor Conference Room of the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford on the third Monday of each month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The Wellness Community-Delaware is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. All facilitators of these groups are trained mental health professionals. For more information and to register, call 645-9150.

Depression Support Group There will be a free bimonthly Depression Support Group meeting in Laurel on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Any person who has signs and symptoms of depression and is under the care of a professional counselor/MD is welcome to attend. To register, call Life Matters Counseling and Consulting at 302-465-6612.

Stroke support group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is Thursday, June 18 at 1:30 p.m. at the hospital's second floor Cancer Care Center Conference Room. The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required and there is no charge to participate. For more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 302-629-6611, ext. 8626.

NMH offers diabetes education Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will hold a four-session diabetes education program beginning June 3 and continuing June 10, 17 and 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the hospital. The cost of the four-session program may be reimbursable by insurance. This program includes weekly education sessions and individualized meal planning for diabetes self-management. The goal is to give participants the self-management skills necessary to control their diabetes. Family members/significant others are welcome to attend. Pre-registration is required. To register and to obtain additional information regarding the course, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 629-6611, ext. 2446.

Volunteers needed The Delaware Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society needs volunteers to help with their spring fundraising event Twilight at Baywood Greens on Friday, May 29 in Long Neck. Volunteers are needed on the day of the event from 4 to 8 p.m. and may choose from a range of activities, including registering event participants, supporting participants at rest stops, distributing t-shirts, loading and unloading supplies, setting up refreshments, and cheerleading at the finish line. For more information, contact Jenna Wagner at 302-655-5610 or email