Similarly to subjects with degenerative parkinsonism, (123)I-FP-CIT SPECT has been reported either normal or abnormal in patients with drug-induced parkinsonism (DIP), challenging the notion that parkinsonism might be entirely due to post-synaptic D2-receptors blockade by antipsychotic drugs. In a previous multicenter cross-sectional study conducted on a large sample of patients with schizophrenia, we identified 97 patients who developed parkinsonism with a similar bi-modal distribution of DAT-SPECT. In this longitudinal study, we reported clinical and imaging features associated with progression of motor disability over 2-year follow-up in 60 out of those 97 patients with schizophrenia and parkinsonism who underwent (123)I-FP-CIT SPECT at baseline evaluation (normal SPECT=33; abnormal SPECT=27). As second end-point, chronic response to levodopa over a 3-month period was tested in a subgroup of subjects. Motor Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) at follow-up significantly increased in patients with abnormal SPECT. Specifically, a 6-point worsening was demonstrated in 18.5\% of the subjects with abnormal SPECT and in none of the subjects with normal SPECT. Levodopa treatment improved motor UPDRS only in the group with abnormal SPECT. After adjustment for possible confounders, linear regression analysis demonstrated that abnormal SPECT findings at baseline were the only predictor of motor disability progression and of better outcome of levodopa treatment. Our results support the notion that a degenerative disease might underlie parkinsonism in a minority of schizophrenic patients chronically exposed to antipsychotics. Functional imaging of the dopamine transporter can be helpful to select this patient sub-group that might benefit from levodopa therapy.
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