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Emory Healthcare first in Georgia to offer noninvasive focused ultrasound treatment for tremor
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Jennifer Johnson McEwen
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Emory Healthcare is the first health care system in Georgia offering a noninvasive ultrasound treatment for patients living with essential tremor or tremor from Parkinson’s disease.

The innovative treatment, approved by the FDA, uses Insightec’s high intensity focused ultrasound technology guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for patients living with essential tremor or Parkinson’s-related tremor that is not adequately responding to medication. The procedure is performed in a single session in an outpatient imaging center and typically takes two to three hours.

“We are thrilled to offer this cutting-edge treatment option at the Emory Brain Health Center. Most patients will experience immediate improvement of tremor caused by essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease. This one-time procedure is presently done on one side only, and the incisionless approach reduces discomfort and the risk of infection and other complications,” says Emory Healthcare neurosurgeon Robert E. Gross, MD, PhD, the MBNA Bowman Chair in Neurosurgery and professor and vice chair, Emory University Department of Neurosurgery.

Gross and an interdisciplinary team of Emory specialists in neurology, neurophysiology and radiology successfully completed the state’s first MRI-guided high intensity focused ultrasound case recently in a 75-year-old patient with essential tremor uncontrolled by medications.

“This is a wonderful new option that could be a gamechanger, especially for essential tremor patients and Parkinson’s patients suffering from tremor symptoms,” says Emory Healthcare neurologist Stewart Factor, DO, director of the Emory Movement Disorders Program and Vance Lanier Chair in Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine.

During the procedure at Emory, a neurosurgeon sits in a control room and uses a computer mouse, instead of a scalpel, to control advanced software and expertly deliver more than one thousand ultrasound beams across the patient’s skull. Guided by an MRI to ensure high resolution visualization of the patient’s anatomy, the physician is able to precisely ablate, or destroy, deep brain targets, thus creating a lesion in the thalamus - the part of the brain relaying the motor signals causing tremor.

The use of high intensity focused ultrasound for treating other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, recently approved by the FDA, should be available soon at Emory.

In addition to clinical use, Emory is hoping to broaden the use of focused ultrasound technology to conduct research, further expanding decades of the institution’s movement disorder and epilepsy research. Efforts are currently underway to raise funds to purchase a low intensity focused ultrasound transducer to add to the current MRI machine. It will allow Emory’s physician-scientists to conduct research and clinical trials in the areas of Alzheimer’s disease and malignant brain gliomas as well as neuromodulation for other disorders.  

 For more information on focused ultrasound at Emory, please call 404-778-7777.  

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