Ultrasound may help treat essential tremor

By AuntMinnie.com staff writers

November 21, 2019 -- A treatment that uses ultrasound may be effective in relieving symptoms of essential tremor by targeting the affected area of the brain, according to a study published online November 20 in Neurology. The treatment, called focused ultrasound thalamotomy, essentially destroys the area of the brain causing the tremor.

More than 7 million people in the U.S. have essential tremor, according to the American Academy of Neurology. Currently, the most common treatment for the disorder when patients don't respond to medication is deep brain stimulation, a procedure that involves incisions and insertion of electrodes or probes into the patient's brain. Ultrasound thalamotomy would offer a less invasive treatment option and remains effective for approximately three years. It does, however, cause an irreversible brain lesion.

For the study, 56 patients received ultrasound thalamotomy and 20 received a fake treatment. The research team measured hand tremors, level of disability, and quality of life at the commencement of the study and after six months, one year, two years, and three years. By the three-year mark, the researchers noted a 50% improvement in hand tremors, a 56% improvement in disability, and a 42% improvement in quality of life.

While senior author Dr. Casey Halpern of Stanford University did note some limitations of the study, he concluded that "this treatment should be considered as a safe and effective option" for those living with essential tremor.


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