The Swedish Neuroscience Institute is the first hospital in the Pacific Northwest to offer focused ultrasound treatment for essential tremor. Recently the Food and Drug Administration approved this type of non-invasive treatment for patients who have not responded to medication.
Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder, affecting more than 10 million people in the United States, and millions more worldwide. The shaking that occurs usually happens in the hand and arm, but tremors can also affect the head, voice, legs, and torso.
“The brain looks fine but it’s not working well. The networks that are controlling movements are impaired,” Dr. Ryder Gwinn said. “The arm is thinking it’s in one place but it’s really in another and so it creates a tremor and this continuous catch-up and by quieting this area of the brain with the focused ultrasound we can get rid of that tremor.”
Greg came in from Georgia to receive the treatment at Swedish. He flew across the country to try and find a cure for a problem that he’s experience for more than 20 years.
“The last two years it’s gotten worse to the point where I can’t even sign my own name and you recognize what it says,” Greg said.
Greg works an electronic technician by trade and it’s impaired his ability to do the job.
“His tremor has basically ended his career,” Dr. Gwinn said. “He’s still working, but it’s really difficult for him to fix the televisions, fix the radios, fix people’s houses. “
The new treatment allows them to pinpoint and heat up the cells that are causing the essentially shut them down so they don’t cause problems anymore.
“Now with the focused ultrasound they can basically increase the temperature in just that little tiny area of the brain until those cells, those neurons stop working,” Dr. Gwinn said.
It’s an outpatient procedure that shows immediate improvements for the patient. Doctors hope to use this same technology in the future to treat things like Parkinson’s, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and epilepsy.
For more information about the focused ultrasound treatment at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, visit www.swedish.org/focusedultrasound.