Take the next step: Focused Ultrasound may offer hope

Posted: November 11, 2021 | Word Count: 752

Two years ago, Dezso Balint began feeling heavy shaking in his hands. As the months progressed, so did the shaking. He saw a neurologist, then another, and one more after that, confirming his diagnosis: essential tremor, or ET. Living with ET made everyday tasks nearly impossible for Dezso. Parts of his daily routine like writing things down and eating were now more difficult than ever before.

While essential tremor is not life-threatening, it immensely affects the quality of one’s life both physically and mentally. Beyond the uncontrollable shaking, anxiety, loss of independence and embarrassment in social settings can also take a toll.

After researching treatment options for ET, Dezso came across various prescription medications, therapies and surgeries that could potentially help ease his tremors. After trying medications, he ultimately decided Focused Ultrasound was the right choice for him. Focused Ultrasound, or FUS, treats movement disorders such as ET and tremor-dominant Parkinson’s disease (PD) that don’t respond to prescribed medications.

The procedure uses ultrasound energy to precisely target and treat a small spot in the brain considered to be responsible for tremor, the Vim of the thalamus. The treatment is less invasive than other surgical treatment options and is performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning the patient can typically leave the medical center and go home the same day of the treatment.

On the day of his Focused Ultrasound treatment, Dezso knew the outcome might not completely eliminate his hand tremor, but he felt hopeful thanks to the doctors, nurses and staff at Hackensack University Medical Center. In June of 2021 Dezso became the first patient to receive Focused Ultrasound treatment at the facility.

After his procedure, Dezso saw the difference between his treated hand and his non-treated hand immediately. He entered his treatment excited and left with a steady right hand, able to greet his wife.

“For me, this is life-changing,” said Dezso. “You don’t have to be afraid; you don’t have to suffer — just go to your doctor and your life can turn back to normal again.” There are risks to the treatment which the treating physician and patient should discuss, to allow the patient to balance the risk with the reward before deciding on the treatment.

Since FDA approval in 2016 for the unilateral treatment of ET, adoption of this technology is growing around the world, with 34 centers treating on a regular basis today in the U.S. In 2018, the FDA approved the unilateral treatment of tremor-dominant PD. Hackensack University Medical Center is the only medical center in New Jersey that offers the treatment for patients with ET or tremor-dominant PD. Medical device company, Insightec, is the pioneer and innovator of the incisionless Focused Ultrasound technology.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Hoozman Azmi, Director of the Division of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery, leads the Focused Ultrasound program at Hackensack.

“To be able to offer a minimally-invasive way of treating tremors and restoring one’s quality of life is incredibly important,” said Dr. Azmi. “The great thing about this treatment is that it’s a one-shot procedure and does not need to be repeated.”

Dr. Azmi makes sure prospective patients understand all treatment options and are aware of potential side effects before receiving Focused Ultrasound. Side effects of Focused Ultrasound that could be temporary or permanent include trouble with balance or tingling in the lips or fingers. On average, the procedure lasts 2.5 hours and many patients experience immediate tremor improvement.

“The immediate impact is really impressive,” Dr. Azmi explains. “To see the disbelief in the patient’s eyes when the tremor is not there anymore is why a lot of us go into medicine — to be able to impact someone’s life like that.”

Not every patient is a candidate for Focused Ultrasound treatment. Since the treatment is done under MRI guidance, the patient must be able to have an MRI scan. Someone who has metal implants that are not MRI-compatible may not be suitable. Additionally, a patient’s skull density must be evaluated with a CT scan before their suitability for treatment can be determined. Candidates must be older than 22 years of age for essential tremor and 30 for tremor-dominant Parkinson’s disease. Full safety information associated with the procedure can be found at https://usa.essential-tremor.com/safety-information.

Learn more about Focused Ultrasound treatment and start your journey to tremor relief by seeing if you could be a candidate at https://usa.essential-tremor.com/candidate/ or call an Insightec Educator at 1-800-704-6797.

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