World’s First MR guided Focused Ultrasound Treatment for Essential Tremor

March 10, 2011

The Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation announced that for the first time MR-guided focused ultrasound was used to successfully treat a patient with essential tremor, a progressive neurological disorder that affects millions of people worldwide.

Essential Tremor (ET) causes involuntary shaking of the hands, head, face, eyelids, voice or other muscles. 
The procedure was performed on one patient at the University of Virginia (UVA) by W. Jeffrey Elias, M.D., a neurosurgeon at and a leading authority on the treatment of movement disorders.
Before the treatment the patient had been unable to use his dominant right hand for over a decade because it shook uncontrollably. After the treatment, his tremor was gone. In the recovery room, he used his right hand to drink from a cup without spilling, and he even worked on a crossword puzzle.

This treatment markes the start of a first in the world clinical trial being funded by the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation. The single-arm, non-randomized pilot study which is being conducted at UVA is expected to treat as many as 15 patients with ET under an FDA-approved protocol. 

The MR-guided focused ultrasound procedure is being used on the ExAblate Neuro system.  The ExAblate Neuro system is a specialized system integrating MRI and high intensity focused ultrasound for investigational non-invasive, image guided transcranial applications.
An important application for this system is for neuro functional disorders such as essential tremor.  Currently, such disorders are treated using pharmaceutical therapy, deep brain stimulation, radiofrequency ablation and radio surgery.  The risks associated with such invasive techniques include infections, hemorrhages, damage to non-targeted brain tissue, and targeting errors due to tissue shifting.
Since the ExAblate Neuro is a non-invasive procedure, it has the potential to be an extraordinary therapeutic tool for brain pathologies.  As a non-invasive thermoablative technique , ExAblate Neuro can be applied to tumors and functional neurosurgery targets.

The patient that was treated for essential tremor received no anesthesia for the treatment and was able to provide feedback to the mdeical staff during the treatment.  Following the treatment, he walked out of the focused ultrasound suite reporting that the treatment was painless. 

To read the full press release click here.