Experimental Treatment for Essential Tremor: MRI guided focused ultrasound for the brain – Ataxia

Experimental Treatment for Essential Tremor: MRI guided focused ultrasound for the brain

Experimental Treatment for Essential Tremor: MRI guided focused ultrasound for the brain

Tremor can be a symptom of ataxia. Ataxia UK’s Medical Guidelines describe the treatments currently available for tremor, which includes medication and neurosurgery. Anyone interested in these treatments should speak to their neurologist or GP.

Taryn Cotton, Ataxia UK Media Ambassador, wrote this article about an experimental treatment for essential tremor.

About one million people have essential tremor in the UK. Some of these cases of essential tremor are caused by another neurological disorder, such as ataxia. Essential tremor is characterised by uncontrollable shaking. Abnormal circuits in the brain send messages via the nervous system to the muscles, causing tremor.

Currently essential tremor is treated with drugs, which can lessen the effects of the tremor, but drugs can have side effects. If drugs don’t work or cause side effects then patients may be offered Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), which again brings risks.

A trial funded by INSIGHTTEC – who initially developed the new technology – is being undertaken by the Imperial College healthcare NHS trust London. They are testing an experimental approach to treat bilateral essential tremor using high-intensity, focused ultrasound waves without the need for invasive surgery. By applying targeted and heated ultrasound waves to specific parts of the brain the abnormal circuits are broken. This same technology has already been trialled in America and Japan, where it has been shown to successfully reduce tremors by up to 80%.

In previous studies, only one side of the brain was treated – usually the side which controls the dominant side of the body. With this new treatment both sides of the brain are treated, around nine months apart. This trial is testing the treatment in people with essential tremor, but the developers hope it will be used to treat other neurological disorders in the future, if the trial is successful.

The first patient to receive this bilateral treatment through this trial was a patient called John who had lived with essential tremor for over 60 years, he is now tremor free! The positive results are thought to be long lasting.

The trial is expected to be completed in 2022.

See the Imperial College news article here.

Posted on 23/10/2020

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