A new noninvasive painless procedure controls essential tremor with no drugs or surgery

A Breakthrough Technology Avoids Drugs or Surgery for ET

Every day in the 21st century we use objects like earbuds, 3-D printers, smartwatches and credit cards. We take for granted that self-driving cars and tickets for a trip to Mars will soon be available. What do these things have in common? They were all foretold by science fiction writers and comics. Medical devices, as depicted in epics like Star Wars and the TV series Star Trek have long sparked wishful thinking that today’s complex, invasive and time-consuming diagnostic and therapeutic procedures could simply be done by waving a Star Trek Tricorder at the body, or floating in a Star Wars Bacta Tank.

For patients with essential tremor (ET) the days of wishing may be over. Normally, medication is a first-line treatment that is effective for most patients. However, as ET progresses, the amount and degree of tremor may reach a point in which is it disabling – and medication no longer works. Until recently, surgical treatments such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) or thalamotomy (inserting an ablation probe to destroy the thalamus) would be offered to control the tremor once medication fails to do so. In either case, the scalp, skull and brain are physically invaded to administer the treatment.

Now, there is a technologic breakthrough called Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Guided Focused Ultrasound, or simply MRgFUS, that is completely noninvasive. Like DBS and thalamotomy, it acts upon the thalamus (area of the brain that organizes messages between the brain and the body). During real-time MRI, which maps the location of the patient’s thalamus, a thousand beams of ultrasound energy are pinpointed on the part of the thalamus that is responsible for the tremor. One of the amazing aspects of MRgFUS is the absence of surgery, radiation, or medications. But even more amazing is the look on a patient’s face when the painless procedure is over, and the tremor is gone – just as if a sci-fi author had written the story.

As the saying goes, a picture (or in this case, a video) is worth a thousand words. You can see an artist’s rendition of the procedure, as well as an actual patient, by clicking here. What you see is not an action-packed outer space thriller, but it does capture the thrill of conquering ET without penetrating the skull. According to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, the benefits of MRgFUS may include:

• Non-invasive single treatment with rapid recovery (usually the next day).
• Less risk of infection and harm to the non-targeted area compared with more invasive therapies
• Rapid relief from symptoms
• No ionizing radiation, thus avoiding the side effects of exposure to radiation.
• An option for cases where medication fails but the patient who does not want surgery.

The Sperling Medical Group is proud to offer the Neruavive MRgFUS technology developed by InSightec. For more information, or to schedule a consultation to see if you are a candidate, contact us today.
The patient lies on a treatment bed that slides into the MRI scanner. Since no holes are drilled into the skull, no anesthesia is needed. The patient is fully conscious throughout the treatment, which may last up to 3+ hours. The treatment is painless, but a mild sedative may be given to ensure relaxation and comfort.

About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Neurosurgery Associates.