For 79-year old Karl Weidamann, a patient suffering with essential tremor (ET), beaming sound waves into his brain produced a result that must have seemed miraculous. It stopped the dominant hand tremor that had plagued him for 15 years. Now he can once again sign his name clearly, feed himself soup without embarrassing splashes, and enjoy drinking a glass of wine held in one steady hand.
His story was picked up by his Florida hometown paper, the Naples Daily News. Journalist Liz Freeman published the article, “Former Athlete Overcomes Tremors with New Treatment” on July 20, 2017. In addition to telling Weidamann’s story, Ms. Freeman describes his noninvasive outpatient procedure called MRI-guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS). Evidence of Weidamann’s improvement can be seen in these before-and-after images of his ability to trace a spiral:
ET is a non-life threatening, progressive disorder of the brain. When the neurons that control movement misfire, a tiny area of the brain (the thalamus) that regulates movement speed and rhythm begins to malfunction. The result is shaking of the hands, head, voice or other body parts. The shaking may not appear when the affected part is at rest, but intentional movement such as picking up a glass of water, buttoning a shirt, or writing a check become virtually impossible over time. For about half of patients, medication may help control the tremor, but some users discontinue the drugs due to side effects.
Instead of pharmaceutical or surgical treatments, MRgFUS uses real-time MRI guidance to focus over 1000 beams of ultrasound energy on the very small area of the thalamus that is causing the tremors. Where the beams converge with pinpoint accuracy, they create enough heat to destroy the misfiring area. Even before the patient gets off the MRI table, the effect is immediately apparent.
Although not everyone is a candidate for the procedure, patients like Weidamann who have a successful treatment enjoy significant improvement in their quality of life. The majority of MRgFUS patients benefit from the treatment.
As the number of U.S. centers offering MRgFUS for ET increases, so will its appearance in the media. Sperling Neurosurgery Associates offers MRgFUS to treat ET and other conditions. To learn more, contact the Sperling Neurosurgery Associates.