Dr. Jeff Elias from the University of Virginia School of Medicine and colleagues at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle enrolled 27 patients with tremor-dominant Parkinson's disease. The researchers randomly assigned 20 subjects to be treated with focused ultrasound waves, while seven others received a fake procedure. (They were later offered the opportunity to have the actual procedure).
All had tremor that resisted medical treatment, and all continued taking their existing Parkinson's medication.
Using focused ultrasound, clinicians can interrupt faulty brain circuits or destroy unwanted tissue without the need to drill or cut into the skull. MRI allows the researchers to monitor the location and intensity of the procedure in real-time.
While all focused ultrasound participants showed improvement in their hand tremors, side effects also occurred; the most significant were mild numbness on one side of the body, which improved, and numbness of the face and finger, which was persistent. Two subjects also experienced partial weakness that recovered or improved during the study. The procedure has since been modified to mitigate the risk of weakness, the researchers said.
A larger, multicenter study is needed to better define the potential role of focused ultrasound in managing Parkinson's disease, according to Elias and colleagues.
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