Protocol of a single group prospective observational study on the diagnostic value of 3T susceptibility weighted MRI of nigrosome-1 in patients with parkinsonian symptoms: the N3iPD study (nigrosomal iron imaging in Parkinson's disease).
INTRODUCTION: Parkinson's disease (PD) is the most common movement disorder in the elderly and is characterised clinically by bradykinesia, tremor and rigidity. Diagnosing Parkinson's can be difficult especially in the early stages. High-resolution nigrosome MRI offers promising diagnostic accuracy of patients with established clinical symptoms; however, it is unclear whether this may help to establish the diagnosis in the early stages of PD, when there is diagnostic uncertainty. In this scenario, a single photon emission CT scan using a radioactive dopamine transporter ligand can help to establish the diagnosis, or clinical follow-up may eventually clarify the diagnosis. A non-invasive, cost-effective diagnostic test that could replace this would be desirable. We therefore aim to prospectively test whether nigrosome MRI is as useful as DaTSCAN to establish the correct diagnosis in people with minor or unclear symptoms suspicious for PD. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: In a prospective study we will recruit 145 patients with unclear symptoms possibly caused by Parkinson's from three movement disorder centres in the UK to take part in the study. We will record the Movement Disorder Society - Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale, and participants will undergo DaTSCAN and high-resolution susceptibility weighted MRI at a field strength of 3T. DaTSCANs will be assessed visually and semiquantitatively; MRI scans will be visually assessed for signal loss in nigrosome-1 by blinded investigators. We will compare how the diagnosis suggested by MRI compares with the diagnosis based on DaTSCAN and will also validate the diagnosis based on the two tests with a clinical examination performed at least 1 year after the initial presentation as a surrogate gold standard diagnostic test. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The local ethics commission (Health Research Authority East Midlands - Derby Research Ethics Committee) has approved this study (REC ref.: 16/EM/0229). The study is being carried out under the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki (64th, 2013) and Good Clinical Practice standards. We have included a number of 15 research-funded DaTSCAN in the research protocol. This is to compensate for study site-specific National Health Service funding for this investigation in affected patients. We therefore have also obtained approval from the Administration of Radioactive Substances Administration Committee (ARSAC Ref 253/3629/35864). All findings will be presented at relevant scientific meetings and published in peer-reviewed journals, on the study website, and disseminated in lay and social media where appropriate.