First Ultrasound to Treat Tremor Approved

Patients with essential tremor whose symptoms do not improve with medication will soon have a new treatment option. The new procedure, recently approved by the FDA, uses focused sound waves to destroy a tiny area of brain tissue responsible for causing tremors. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used during the procedure to locate this area.

Essential tremor is the most common type of tremor, affecting millions of Americans over the age of 40. In people with the condition, tremors often become more severe with purposeful movement—such as writing or holding a cup. It usually is treated with beta blockers or anticonvulsants. This new treatment may help patients with persistent symptoms avoid more invasive therapies like deep brain stimulation (DBS) or surgery.

In clinical studies, patients treated with ultrasound achieved a 50% reduction in symptoms after 3 months and a 40% improvement over baseline after 12 months. Side effects include numbness and tingling of the fingers, headache, and imbalance or unsteadiness. They also may include unintended tissue damage, excessive bleeding, scarring, and others.

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