A new way to use the ultrasound machine. Scientists try to treat Parkinson’s disease with ultrasound
Patients with Parkinson’s disease have significantly improved tremors, mobility and other physical symptoms after undergoing a minimally invasive procedure using focused ultrasound, according to a new study.
The clinical trial, conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, included 94 patients with Parkinson’s disease who were randomly assigned to undergo focused ultrasound to target an area on one side of the brain or to undergo a sham procedure. Nearly 70 percent of patients in the treatment group were considered successful after three months of follow-up, compared to 32 percent in the control group who had an inactive procedure without focused ultrasound.
Two-thirds of those who initially responded to focused ultrasound treatment continued to have a successful response to treatment a year later, writes News Medical .
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These results are very promising and doctors are now offering Parkinson’s patients a new form of therapy to treat their symptoms. There is no surgical procedure in this method, which means there is no risk of serious infection or cerebral hemorrhage.
About a million Americans suffer from Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease that affects brain cells or neurons in a specific dopamine-producing area of the brain. Symptoms include shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Other treatments for Parkinson’s include drugs and deep brain stimulation (DBS) with surgically implanted electrodes. Medicines can cause involuntary erratic movements called dyskinesia as doses are increased to control symptoms. Usually offered when medications don’t help, DBS involves brain surgery in which electrodes are inserted through two small holes in the skull. The procedure carries a small risk of serious side effects, including cerebral hemorrhage and infection.
“Our study will help clinicians and patients make informed decisions when considering this new treatment to help better manage symptoms,” said study co-author Paul Fishman, MD, a professor of neurology at UMSO and a neurologist at UMMC. “But it’s important for patients to understand that none of the currently available treatments will cure Parkinson’s completely.”
Focused ultrasound is a non-surgical procedure performed without anesthesia or hospital stay. Patients who remain fully conscious lie in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner wearing a helmet with a sensor. Ultrasonic energy is directed through the skull into the globus pallidus, a structure deep in the brain that helps control regular voluntary movements.
MRI images provide doctors with a real-time temperature map of the treated area to pinpoint the target and apply a high enough temperature to irradiate it. During the procedure, the patient is conscious and provides feedback, which allows doctors to monitor the direct effects of tissue irradiation and make adjustments if necessary.
“Focused ultrasound is only approved to treat one side of the brain in patients with Parkinson’s disease, so it may currently be more appropriate for patients with symptoms predominantly on one side,” said study co-author Vibhor Krishna, MD. professor of neurosurgery at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.