The focused ultrasound approach concentrates powerful sound waves on a very specific part of the brain to reduce the uncontrollable shaking caused by essential tremor, a common movement disorder. The procedure is guided by magnetic resonance imaging in real time, allowing doctors to home in on exactly the right spot before making permanent changes to the brain.
Those who benefit from the treatment often enjoy a remarkable improvement – for example, renewing their ability to write and feed themselves – after a single session at UVA Health.
The results have produced a stunning “wow” factor for patients, the families and those seeing the results for the first time.
The focused ultrasound procedure was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration for tremor after pivotal clinical testing led by UVA Health neurosurgeon Dr. Jeff Elias and colleagues. Elias also performed Hric’s procedure, which Gupta and his television crew followed step-by-step. They were joined by Dr. Neal Kassell, the head of the Charlottesville-based Focused Ultrasound Foundation and a longtime advocate for focused ultrasound and for UVA’s focused ultrasound research.
“Procedures like Brenda’s are so rewarding. It was extra special that she shared it with Dr. Gupta and CNN,” Elias said. “While the technical aspects of the procedure are just part of our daily routine, we never forget the human element and the opportunity that we have to try to help someone.”
While Gupta’s story centers on an essential tremor procedure, it also highlights the vast potential of the focused ultrasound technology. For example, focused ultrasound could be used to briefly open the brain’s natural protective barrier to allow doctors to administer treatments, now impossible, for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The technology is already being tested at UVA for a wide array of applications. The pioneering research has shown such promise that UVA Health recently joined with the Focused Ultrasound Center to launch the Focused Ultrasound Cancer Immunotherapy Center, the world’s first center dedicated specifically to combining focused ultrasound and cancer immunotherapy to improve cancer care.