Patients with essential tremors or Parkinson's disease have an innovative, incisionless treatment option available at Johnston-Willis Hospital. This technology, called Focused Ultrasound, is guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to direct targeted sound wave energy deep into the brain, treating the tissue causing a tremor. With focused ultrasound, no surgical incision or anesthesia is required and patients leave the same day.

What are essential tremors?

According to the International Essential Tremor Foundation, an estimated 10 million Americans have essential tremors. Essential tremors is a neurological disorder causing involuntary shaking - generally of either hands, but also of the voice and head or one hand may be stronger tremors than the other. The trembling can worsen with action or movement and can be incapacitating, interfering with daily activities like cooking, eating, brushing teeth and writing.

Benefits of focused ultrasound

Focused ultrasound offers give patients another treatment option for essential tremors as they work to get back to a more independent and active lifestyle. Focused ultrasound is the least invasive and requires no anesthesia, no surgical incisions, no radiation or implanted hardware. Patients are awake throughout the pain-free procedure, which allows them to interact with their neurosurgeon and respond to commands to continually evaluate their tremors. This real-time monitoring and feedback allow the neurosurgeon to precisely target areas of the brain controlling the tremor.

Using MRI, low-energy sound waves are targeted at the tissue in the brain that is causing the tremors. Then, the patient responds to commands to confirm the target's location is correct. Energy is then gradually increased to create a controlled lesion. Patients often see immediate improvement after the hour-long focused ultrasound procedure, with full results taking approximately three weeks. Focused ultrasound typically does not require an overnight stay in the hospital; most patients are able to go home the same day.

With focused ultrasound, there are very few limitations to who qualifies as a candidate for the procedure. A CT scan is performed during the consultation to determine if focused ultrasound is the proper course of treatment.

Focused ultrasound is FDA approved for essential tremors.

Candidates for focused ultrasound

Focused ultrasound benefits patients who:

  • Are not candidates or are unwilling to have invasive surgery
  • Have a confirmed diagnosis of medication-refractory essential tremor
  • Are 22 years old or older
  • Are able to tolerate the procedure and communicate sensations during the procedure

Neurological care videos

To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call our nurse navigator Denise Laine at (804) 483-5711 or via email.