Take back control of your life with focused ultrasound

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Take back control of your life with focused ultrasound

(BPT) – Imagine your schedule for the day looks something like this: Wake up at 8 a.m. Brain surgery at 10 a.m. Lunch with your son at 2 p.m. This can be the reality for patients who are treated with Focused Ultrasound for Essential Tremor (ET) or Tremor-Dominant Parkinson’s disease (PD). People with these conditions experience uncontrollable shaking in their hands or other body parts, making it difficult to do simple things like buttoning a shirt or drinking a cup of coffee.

When prescribed medications don’t work, Focused Ultrasound provides an outpatient treatment option for those living with these movement disorders.

Esther Doyle was the first patient to be treated with Focused Ultrasound for ET at California’s MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, where the FUS program is led by Devin K. Binder, M.D., Ph.D. Esther had lived with ET for 12 years and was no longer able to do many things by herself, including help care for her grandchildren, something she had literally moved continents to do.

“Before I heard about this treatment, my doctor told me that I needed to learn to live with [my ET]. There was no way I was going to live with this,” the active 73-year-old shared.

She did the research and learned about Focused Ultrasound, a technology pioneered by medical device company Insightec. After initially pursuing the treatment at a different hospital, Esther connected with one of Insightec’s Educators, a team who helps connect prospective patients with treatment centers, and discovered the treatment was available at Orange Coast, a site closer to her home.

The procedure uses ultrasound energy guided by MRI to precisely target and treat a small spot in the brain considered to be responsible for tremor, the VIM of the thalamus. Esther’s treatment team told her she would have to have her head shaved for the procedure, and there were potential temporary or permanent side effects such as trouble with balance or tingling in the lips or fingers, but Esther knew her hair would grow back and was focused on getting her life back.

The treatment lasts on average 2.5 hours, with patients moving in and out of the MRI scanner. During the treatment, Esther was an active participant, letting the treatment team know about any sensations she felt and drawing spirals to assess her tremor.

“Before the procedure, we evaluate the severity of their tremor through simple tasks, such as handwriting, holding a cup or drawing spiral diagrams. We have them repeat these tests periodically and continue with the procedure until their tremor is reduced in the treated hand,” Dr. Binder explained.

A few hours later, Esther was at a restaurant with her son, enjoying lunch with a newly steady hand. “My whole attitude towards life has changed since the procedure. I am ready to take on the world,” Esther shared. “Life is great.”

Since FDA approval in 2016 for the unilateral treatment of ET that does not respond to medications, the availability of this technology is expanding. The number of Focused Ultrasound programs in the U.S. has increased from 20 in 2019 to 34 centers today.

“The establishment of a Focused Ultrasound program expands our hospital’s ability to provide personalized patient care for our community. In the future, the ability to treat chronic conditions, such as Essential Tremor, in outpatient facilities holds the potential for not only reducing healthcare expenses, but more importantly, placing the patients at the center of care,” Dr. Binder said.

The improvement in tremor of the treated hand improves the quality of life for many patients. For Esther, being able to go out for meals with loved ones is one of the ways she’s regained control over her life.

Not every patient is a candidate for Focused Ultrasound treatment. Since the treatment is done under MRI guidance, the patient must be able to be placed in an MRI machine. Someone who has metal implants may not be suitable. Additionally, a patient’s skull density must be evaluated with a CT scan before their suitability for treatment can be determined. More information about risks associated with the procedure can be found at https://usa.essential-tremor.com/safety-information.

Learn more about Focused Ultrasound treatment and take a short quiz to see if you could be a candidate at https://usa.essential-tremor.com/candidate or call an Insightec Educator at 1-800-704-6797.