January 25, 2012

Treating Essential Tremor with Ultrasound: Are Cancer and Parkinson's Next?

A segment on the ABC Evening News on January 24 caught my attention. Medical correspondent Dr. Richard Besser reported on the success of treating Essential Tremor (ET) with MRI guided focused ultrasound.

The clip showed the dramatic results for a woman with ET. Before the treatment, shaking prevented her from easily touching the tip of her index finger to Besser’s. After the non-invasive, ten-minute procedure – no problem.

Her results were similar to those of the man in this brief video:

The process uses MRI imaging to accurately pinpoint the affected area responsible for the ET in the thalamus region of the brain. Then, focused ultrasound targets that tissue, which can be as small as one millimeter in diameter.

Dr. Jeffrey Elias, Director of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery at University of Virginia – the same man featured in the ABCNews story -- explains the procedure:

The FDA has already approved the MRI-ultrasound technology for treating uterine fibroids. In Europe, the process had been approved for treating bone metasteses.
According to the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation (FUSF) website, the procedure could:
  • be the ultimate form of noninvasive surgery
  • destroy tumors without making any incisions and without harm to other organs
  • replace the need for most radiation treatments
  • transform pharmacological therapy by delivering drugs precisely where needed without harm to the rest of the body
  • dissolve blood clots and restore flow through blocked vessels
The Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation site (FUSF) mentions the possible use of the technology to also treat brain tumors, epilepsy, neuropathic pain, Parkinson’s disease, and prostate cancer.


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