A 3D brain SPECT could lead to better cognitive function in psychiatric patients

Using 3D brain SPECT scans to guide treatment of psychiatric disorders improved health outcomes and cognitive performance, according to a study published in advance of the Winter 2014 issue of the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences.

The study was conducted by Howard Schneider, MD, from the Sheppard Associates, and colleagues from the Rossiter-Thornton Associates and the department of nuclear medicine and division of adult psychiatry at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

In this retrospective study, researchers reviewed the cases of 30 patients being treated in community clinics for anxiety, depression and/or cognitive dysfunction associated with chronic pain or injury. A 3D Ethyl cysteinate dimer (ECD) brain perfusion SPECT was conducted for all patients. Pre- and post-treatment imaging scores as well as Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores were documented and psychiatric patients were matched with controls with similar diagnoses and GAF scores. The brain SPECT scan was offered as a normal course of treatment and was used in comprehensive clinical and pharmacological decision making along with psychotherapy and education. Patients who received SPECT-guided treatment fared better.

“Our retrospective analysis showed that before- and after-treatment SPECT scans correlated in a statistically significant manner with before- and after-treatment levels of patients’ functioning (GAF scores),” wrote the authors. “On the important clinical level, our retrospective analysis showed that community patients who underwent 3D brain SPECT scans and SPECT-guided treatment improved more in functioning than their matched controls who did not undergo SPECT scans and SPECT-guided treatment.”

As an aside, the researchers noted that all three of the patients who showed improvement in their GAF score but no improvement via SPECT had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.