According to Parkinson’s News Today, Novant Health will soon become the first provider in the Carolinas to offer MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS). The therapy, with a surgery-like technique, has no incisions, making it a less invasive option for patients with tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease, or those with essential tremor. In September, the Novant Health Mint Mill Medical Center will be the first operator in the area to adopt this technology.
MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS)
According to Stanford Health Care, magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) is usually used to treat tumors, fibroids, osteoid osteomala, and essential tremor. But how does MRgFUS work?
Ultrasound is a form of energy that can pass through skin, muscle, fat and other soft tissue so no incisions or inserted probes are needed. High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) pinpoints a small target and provides a therapeutic effect by raising the temperature high enough to destroy the target with no damage to surrounding tissue.
In the case of essential tremor, doctors use MRgFUS to identify areas of the brain responsible for the tremors. Next, doctors treat these areas with HIFU. This is a promising solution as it does not damage other brain tissue. Currently, this technology is used to treat essential tremor and Parkinson’s-related tremors in Colorado and Pennsylvania.
MRgFUS is beneficial because of its low invasiveness. As a result, patients traveling for this treatment require no in-person follow-ups. Thus, it is a more accessible option for many. It also offers the ability for patients with tremors to gain more control over their movements and lifestyles. Plus, the treatment is also fairly effective. According to the Cleveland Clinic, MRgFUS improves tremor by over 50% within 12 weeks.
Resulting from dopaminergic neuron death, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive CNS disorder causing movement issues. It occurs in five stages. First, patients experience light tremors on one side of the body. Next, patients begin experiencing tremors and muscle rigidity on both sides of the body. Generally, around 70% of patients will experience these tremors. By stage three, patients struggle with balance and slowed movement. Then they lose the ability to live independently. Finally, by stage five, patients are unable to stand or walk, and may experience delusions. In many cases, Parkinson’s disease onset begins after 50 years old.
Symptoms include slowed movement, muscle stiffness, tremors (particularly in the hands), stuttering or slurring words, inability to blink or smile, poor balance, and dementia or hallucinations. While there is no cure, prior treatments include medications or deep brain stimulation (DBS).
Learn more about Parkinson’s disease.
Stanford Health Care defines essential tremor as:
shaking that you can’t control. This type of tremor is not harmful [and isn’t] caused by a stroke or Parkinson’s disease.
Caffeine, antidepressants, alcohol, and age may worsen tremors. Usually, essential tremor develops after age 45. It can occur spontaneously or have genetic causes. Symptoms include uncontrollable shaking, balance problems, and difficulty eating, drinking, handwriting, or buttoning clothes. Learn more about essential tremor.