New, Non-Invasive Procedure Approved for Treating Essential Tremors

A non-invasive treatment offers new hope to the roughly 10 million people affected by essential tremors in the U.S. each year.

Essential tremors can affect quality of life and even can be disabling in extreme cases.

“Essential tremors is a condition, just as you would understand, where the patient has a tremor that could be either very mild or incapacitating,” said Dr. Howard Eisenberg, chair or neurosurgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Essential tremors can appear in various parts of the body, like the hands, legs and head. No one knows the cause.

Peter Muller suffered severe tremors for more than 30 years. They made signing his name, eating and drinking a cup of tea challenging for him.

“What a disaster,” he said. “I was lucky if eventually I was drinking a third of the cup.”

The University of Maryland School of Medicine is using a new procedure to treat tremors: MRI guided focused ultrasound targets specific regions in the brain through heat, which focuses the energy via ultrasound through the scalp, pinpointing the problem areas.

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In the past, doctors used more standard surgical technologies, like making lesions, Eisenburg said.

“Holes in the brain, if you will,” he said.

With MRI guided focused ultrasound, the patient is awake, responding to the doctor.

The FDA approved the procedure this summer.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month found 56 people treated with this procedure improved by almost 50 percent, and it appears to have worked for Muller.

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