April 19, 2012
It's surgery without a knife, and a clinical trial at the University of Virginia Medical Center has found that it could be as effective at treating essential tremor as traditional surgery.
Scalpel-free surgery using focused sound waves is being done at one hospital in the world right now, and that's UVa. Fifteen participants in UVa's clinical study stopped involuntary shaking after going through the focused ultrasound treatment.
The procedure combines an MRI and an ultrasound. Doctors basically use an MRI machine to focus on problem areas in the brain. Then, thousands of ultrasonic beams focus in on the singular problem area and burn the tissue causing the tremors.
Following the four-hour procedure, Glen German, who had a tremor for the past decade, no longer shakes.
"Just spending that much time and the doctor being able to zero in on that part of the brain, which is very small, and zap it to the point to control the tremor totally, and when it was finished there was none in the right hand. But in the left I do have the tremor," he explained.
UVa researchers hope to expand the research and conduct more trials to determine if a focused ultrasound can be used for treating tremors in patients with Parkinson's Disease.