Ultrasound Treatment for Essential Tremor


NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Essential tremor is a chronic neurological disorder that causes a person’s hands, arms and sometimes head, to shake uncontrollably, and there is no cure. There are medications that can help, but they don’t work effectively for many patients. But a new FDA approved procedure is now giving some patients a new lease on life.

“I was getting frustrated and quite depressed,” said Katina Ansen.

For painter Ansen, tremors used to affect her work which requires a lot of precision, but also everyday activities.

“When I went to go flip a hamburger or a pancake, it would go flying across the room,” Ansen shared.

Ansen’s persistent tremors led her to neurosurgeon Michael Kaplitt MD, PhD Professor of Neurological Surgery at Weill Cornell medical college in New York. Dr. Kaplitt was among the first in the country to use a cutting-edge technique to treat essential tremor.

“We are using ultrasound beams to actually non-invasively change the way the brain functions to improve disease,” said Dr. Kaplitt.

In the FDA approved procedure, neurosurgeons use MRI guidance to target a very precise area of the brain.  Then surgeons administer a focused ultrasound beam.

“It’s very similar to when you were a kid and you would use a magnifying glass to focus light beams on a leaf or a piece of paper,” Dr. Kaplitt explained.

Ansen needed very little recovery time after surgery. She credits the procedure with giving her her life back.

“I call myself the 2.0 Katina now, because I was updated,” Ansen said.

In a clinical trial of the ultrasound treatment, three months after the procedure patients treated with the ultrasound showed a nearly 50 percent improvement in tremors and motor function, and most patients kept that improvement over a one-year period.

Contributors to this news report include: Sergio Cruel, Field Producer; Rose Rella, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Robert Walko, Editor.

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REPORT:        MB #4407


BACKGROUND: Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking. It can affect almost any part of the body, but the trembling occurs most often in the hands. It’s usually not a dangerous condition, but essential tremor typically worsens over time and can be severe in some people. Other conditions don’t cause essential tremor, although it’s sometimes confused with Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms begin gradually, usually on one side of the body and worsen with movement. They usually occur in the hands first, affecting one hand or both hands and may be aggravated by emotional stress, fatigue, caffeine or temperature extremes. About half of essential tremor cases appear to result from a genetic mutation, although a specific gene hasn’t been identified.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/essential-tremor/symptoms-causes/syc-20350534)


TREATMENT: There are several approaches to treating essential tremor. First are Beta blockers. Normally used to treat high blood pressure, beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal) help relieve tremors in some people. Anti-seizure medications are another option. Epilepsy drugs may be effective in people who don’t respond to beta blockers. Other medications that might be prescribed include gabapentin and topiramate. Side effects include drowsiness and nausea, which usually disappear within a short time. Doctors may use tranquilizers to treat people for whom tension or anxiety worsens tremors. Side effects can include fatigue or mild sedation. Lastly are Botox injections which can improve tremors for up to three months at a time.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/essential-tremor/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350539)


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Dr. Michael Kaplitt, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurological Surgery and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Neurological Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, is utlizing a new method of outpatient brain surgery using ultrasound beams to noninvasively change the way the brain functions. He says “each beam as it goes through the brain is very safe but when they converge or when they add up at one spot then they can add up all of their energy to the point where we can actually heat that area of the brain. If there are areas that are functioning abnormally, we can use this to burn and destroy these areas allowing the rest of the brain to free up and function more normally. The first disease that we have been treating with this, that was FDA approved last year, is essential tremor.”

(Source: Dr. Michael Kaplitt, MD, PhD)



Ana Sokol


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

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