Dr. Jeff Elias (center) and the patients who participated in the essential tremor study at UVA
The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of the pilot trial for the use of focused ultrasound to treat patients with essential tremor. These Phase I results indicate that focused ultrasound can safely and effectively treat targeted areas deep in the brain. In focused ultrasound, more than 1,000 ultrasound waves are focused to a single site in the thalamus for the treatment.
The study included 15 patients with essential tremor that could not be managed by medication. Jeffrey Elias, MD, neurosurgeon at the University of Virginia and IETF Medical Advisory Board member, is the lead investigator of the study.
Phase I findings:
- Dominant hand tremor improved by 75 percent.
- Substantial improvements in daily disabilities (85 percent) and quality of life as assessed by clinicians and patients.
- Outcomes and complications were comparable to surgical procedures for tremor, including radio frequency thalamotomy and deep brain stimulation.
Phase III of this study will begin soon. For information on how to register, visit clinicaltrials.gov.
The IETF will continue to watch as results of focused ultrasound studies are posted. Large, randomized controlled trials will be required to assess the procedure’s efficacy and safety.
Watch a video featuring Billy Williams, the first patient treated with focused ultrasound for essential tremor.
Follow the progress and learn more about Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies – the BRAIN Initiative – at www.nih.gov/science/brain/index.htm. This is an extremely important project because it accelerates our understanding of how the brain works. This in turn will help advance research that develops new interventions for conditions and diseases – like ET! The new tools and technologies that will be developed will lift all research to new levels and provide breakthroughs in the future that enable the development of better treatments and cures to be found.
It is sometimes difficult, even for a trained neurologist, to tell the difference between Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor when it is in the early stages, as they can share similar symptoms (such as resting tremor). A new Taiwan-based study investigated changes in brain volume in people with essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease, searching for a pattern that might help differentiate between to the two conditions more easily.
The study found that although both ET and PD patients showed a decrease in brain volume in areas involved with movement and muscle control, it also showed increases in other distinct areas. Researchers speculate that this is due to the ability of the brain to compensate for damaged areas by developing and strengthening new pathways, thus increasing the size of those areas.
Although further study is needed, it appears that looking specifically at the areas of the brain that increase in volume, along with other diagnostic and assessment tools, may allow physicians to more accurately differentiate between ET and PD.
Read the abstract.
New! Functional Imaging of Tremor Circuits and Mechanisms of Treatment Response. The Laboratory for Functional Imaging of Neurodegenerative Disorders is conducting an NIH?sponsored study. Learn more.