Often misdiagnosed because symptoms resemble that of other disorders
Bacterial, parasitic and other infections can wreak havoc on the brain—quickly. These infectious agents release toxins in the brain, which cause an inflammatory response, reduce blood flow, impair healthy function and cause a multitude of symptoms.
On SPECT, infections in the brain can appear as an overall pattern of significantly high or low blood flow and look similar to a brain affected by toxins.
Since the symptoms of some brain infections resemble symptoms of other disorders, patients are often misdiagnosed with another problem such as depression or other psychiatric disorders, chronic fatigue, dementia or fibromyalgia. Meanwhile—without the appropriate treatment—the infection persists, causing a potential worsening of symptoms and further injury to the brain.
With the sensitivity of SPECT, we can identify a potentially infectious process in the brain and get the patient onto the right course of treatment. SPECT can also show recovery after treatment.
Case Study: Lyme disease
Adrianna, age 16, went on a mountain vacation with her family. When they arrived at their cabin they were surrounded by 6 deer. It was a beautiful moment. Ten days later, Adrianna became agitated and started having auditory hallucinations. Her parents sought help, and Adrianna was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. She was prescribed antipsychotic medications, which didn’t help.
The next 3 months were a torturous road of different doctors and multiple medications—at a cost of nearly $100,000. Adrianna had become a shadow of her former self. Desperate, her parents brought Adrianna for a SPECT scan, which showed areas of unusually high activity. As result, we looked deeper into the potential causes of her symptoms, such as an infection or toxicity. It turned out that Adrianna had Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection that is often caused by deer ticks. After being given the appropriate course of antibiotics, Adrianna got her life back.
Case Study: Herpes Encephalitis
Nancy was a 59-year-old woman suffering from severe depression that had been nonresponsive to treatment. A SPECT study was done to provide greater information about her condition. It was a surprise to see two large strokes in the right side of her brain, since she had not experienced any symptoms that would indicate this. Her non-responsive depression suddenly made more sense: 60% of the people who have frontal lobe strokes experience severe depression within a year. She was referred immediately to a neurologist for further evaluation and treatment.