A scalpel-free, high-tech form of brain surgery pioneered at UVA Health offers long-term relief for patients with essential tremor, a common movement disorder, a five-year review shows.
The study offers important insights into the durability of the benefits of focused ultrasound treatment for essential tremor. Five years after treatment, clinical trial participants continued to their treated tremors reduced by more than 70%, the researchers report. There were no progressive or delayed complications.
“It is exciting to see such durable results after an outpatient procedure for a sometimes disabling problem like ET,” said researcher Jeff Elias, MD, a UVA Health neurosurgeon who served as the study’s Principle Investigator. “It is important to note that most of the patients had very long-lasting benefits, but there are some cases where tremor can recur.”
Focused Ultrasound for Essential Tremor
The focused ultrasound procedure focuses sound waves inside the brain to disrupt faulty brain circuits that cause unwanted movement. Unlike traditional brain surgery, it does not require incisions nor opening the skull. The minimally invasive procedure is guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), so doctors can pinpoint the exact right spot in the brain before delivering the treatment.
Initial tests of the procedure at UVA and a small number of other sites often produced dramatic results: Study participants would enter an MRI with their hand shaking uncontrollably and emerge with their ability to write or feed themselves restored.
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