NEJM study: MRI-guided focused ultrasound effective to treat essential tremor

From University of Maryland School of Medicine:

Baltimore, Md., Aug. 25, 2016 – Treatment with MRI-guided focused ultrasound significantly improves tremors and quality of life in patients with essential tremor (ET), the most common movement disorder, according to a study published in the August 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM), were among an international group of investigators studying this new noninvasive treatment, which was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), based on this research.

An estimated 10 million people in the United States are affected by essential tremor, which unlike Parkinson’s disease, has been viewed as a relatively benign disease caused by abnormalities in the brain. However, its disabling aspects – sometimes severe involuntary and rhythmic shaking in the hands and other extremities – can impair an individual’s ability to perform the simplest tasks, such as eating or holding a pen. Currently, ET affects an estimated 3 percent of Americans and has been treated by medication, surgical procedures or deep brain stimulation (DBS).

The randomized, double-blinded study showed that 56 patients who received the treatment experienced a nearly 50 percent improvement in their tremors and motor function after three months and retained a 40 percent improvement after a year. In contrast, 20 patients who received a sham treatment saw no improvement and were able to cross over into the treatment group three months later.

“We are very excited to have this new noninvasive treatment option for patients who struggle every day with this debilitating neurological disorder,” says study co-author Howard M. Eisenberg, MD, the RK Thompson Professor and Chair of Neurosurgery at the UM SOM. “We saw an impressive reduction in tremors in hands and arms and an improvement in quality of life in patients who experienced no relief from …

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