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Essential Tremor | UMMC medical staff check the effectiveness of an MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound Treatment

This non-invasive technology for treating essential tremor uses detailed brain imaging and heat-generating sonic waves from ultrasound technology to pinpoint and kill brain cells associated with the tremor.

The University of Maryland Medical Center is among the first institution to offer MRI-guided focused ultrasound (FUS).

For more information about focused ultrasound and clinical trials, please contact Charlene Aldrich, RN, MSN, neurosurgery clinical research manager, at 410-328-5332.

The Procedure

During the procedure, more than 1,000 sonic waves are directed at a precise spot in the brain, traveling through the skull. The sonic waves must reach the target at the same exact time for the procedure to work.

To make sure the waves hit the correct spot associated with the tremor, radiologists use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to create a map of the brain and pinpoint the target. Once it’s confirmed that no other parts of the brain will be affected, the temperature of the sonic waves is turned up to kill the targeted cells.

During treatment, the patient is awake and interacting with the care team. Patients experience a 50 to 60 percent reduction of the tremor, allowing for a greater quality of life — even for those whose tremor was not correctable with the best medicines.

Patients who undergo FUS can have side effects, such as changes in sensation in the hand or problems with balance, but these issues are rarely serious.