Essential Tremor Is Not Parkinson’s


MIAMI, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than seven million Americans suffer from a disabling movement disorder that causes their hands to shake uncontrollably. Now, a new non-invasive procedure is helping to stop the tremors!

“They’ve affected me since I was in my thirties,” Harriet Marksfield explained to Ivanhoe.

Harriet is talking about the tremors that cause her hands to shake uncontrollably.

Marksfield commented, “I couldn’t carry a cup, a full cup of coffee to the table.”

“Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder, about three times more common than Parkinson’s disease,” Travis Tierney, MD, a Neurosurgeon at Sperling Medical Group explained. (Read Full Interview)

The condition can be hereditary and despite medication gets worse over time. Now, new technology by INSIGHTEC uses MRI-guided focused ultrasound to stop the tremors- treating them where they start; in the brain.

Dr. Tierney continued, “It’s focused in the precise spot in the brain where the tremor cells are and that’s in part of the brain called the thalamus.”

While the patient is in the special MRI, an ultrasound beam targets the specific area of the brain causing the tremor, destroying it.

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, Medical Director at Sperling Medical Group explained, “Accurately -within three to four millimeters destroy a tiny amount of brain tissue that you don’t really need but that’s causing the side effects of the tremors.”

Patients are awake during the procedure and they can see it working in real time.

Dr. Sperling continued, “So we can actually see our results immediately, and the patient sees it, which is very powerful.”

“You can expect 70 to 80 percent tremor reduction so in some cases you may what’s called get tremor arrest, and the tremor’s gone,” said Dr. Tierney.

“It’s steadiness there,” said Earl Jantzi.

Earl Jantzi’s right hand no longer shakes and he can sign his name again.

Jantzi’s pointed out his left hand, “Can’t do that with this one.”

Right now, the procedure is only FDA approved for treating one side of the brain; this is why Dr. Tierney does the dominant hand. Side effects can include some numbing and tingling on the side being treated, but generally this goes away. Currently the treatment is not covered by insurance and can cost upwards of 25 thousand dollars, but INSIGHTEC says they are working to get Medicare and U.S. insurance companies to cover the treatment. For more information please visit

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:         MB #4363

BACKGROUND: Essential tremor is a neurological disorder (nervous system) that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking. It can affect almost any part of the body, but will most often occur in the hands, especially while performing simple tasks such as tying shoelaces or drinking a glass of water. It is not a dangerous condition, but it typically worsens over time and can become severe in some cases. Other conditions do not cause essential tremor, and it is sometimes confused with Parkinson’s disease. Essential tremor usually occurs when a person is using his hands; Parkinson’s-related tremors are most prominent when the hands are at your sides or resting in your lap. Essential tremor does not cause other health problems, and Parkinson’s is associated with stooped posture, slow movement, and shuffling gait. Essential tremor mainly involves the hands, head and voice, while Parkinson’s starts in the hands but can affect your legs, chin and other parts of the body. About half of the essential tremor cases appear as a result of genetic mutation, but the specific gene has yet to be identified. It isn’t clear what causes essential tremor in people without this genetic mutation.


SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT: Symptoms will begin gradually, usually on one side of the body. Tremors become worse with movement, and usually occur in the hands first, affecting one or both hands. They may include a yes or no motion of the head, and can be aggravated by emotional stress, fatigue, caffeine, or temperature extremes. Patients with significant functional impairment may opt for some form of treatment. Options include non-medical therapy, medication, and sometimes even surgery. Tremors can sometimes be reduced by weighting the limb, usually by applying wrist weights. Non-medical relaxation techniques may also be effective in controlling tremors, since it can be aggravated by stress.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: The company Insightec has created the Exablate Neuro, the first focused ultrasound device approved by the FDA to treat patients with essential tremor. It is a non-invasive, image-guided personalized thalamotomy procedure that treats the tiny part of the brain thought to be responsible for causing tremors, in the Vim nucleus of the thalamus. This treatment is done through an intact skull and doesn’t require any ionizing radiation, incisions or implants. The beams generate enough heat to ablate the targeted tissue during treatment and results are immediate and significant, resulting in reduction of tremor for patients. Currently it is only approved to treat one side of the brain.



Michelle Barry

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Travis Tierney, MD

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