Focused ultrasound burns hole in patient's brain, stops essential tremor

The University of Maryland Medical Center is burning holes in the brains of its patients—and for good reason. According to a recent NBC report, the medical center used focused ultrasound thalamotomy on a 60-year-old man to successfully stop palsy-induced essential tremor on the left side of his body.  

While the patient was situated in an MRI machine, physicians used focused ultrasound to destroy a very small section of the patient's thalamus, responsible for relaying sensory information and pain perception.

“The three most important things in neurology are just like the three most important things in real estate: location, location, location,” said neurobiologist Paul Fishman, MD, PhD, from the University of Maryland Medical School, who assisted with the two-hour operation.

Unlike a typical ultrasound that uses a single diffuse beam to internally analyze a part of the body, focused ultrasound sends roughly 1,000 beams to a single point from different directions to heat and destroy tissue.

According to the report, the procedure used an MRI and focused ultrasound device that was approved by the FDA in 2016 to treat essential tremor. The University of Maryland Medical Center hopes to continue to use focused ultrasound to treat patients with various brain conditions and assist in improving the effects of chemotherapy.  

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