Pennsylvania patient area's first to receive ultrasound treatment for essential tremor

John Lukens, 61, who suffered from bilateral essential tremor (ET) for about a decade, recently became the first patient in Pennsylvania to receive MR-guided Focused Ultrasound Treatment (MRgFUS) for ET.

The condition led to significant shaking in Lukens' hands and arms that made it difficult for him to eat, shave or write. Now, two weeks after undergoing MRgFUS for ET, he is tremor free in his right hand—and his writing samples also show the improvement. 

Gordon Baltuch, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery; Andres F. Deik, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurology; and Robert W. Hurst, MD, professor of radiology, performed Lukens’ procedure at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.

"There are millions of people in this country who are affected by essential tremor and whose lives could benefit from this non-invasive therapy," said Baltuch in a statement. "Seeing Mr. Lukens' tremor disappear before our eyes without making an incision or drilling a hole in his skull was nothing short of spectacular."

Baltuch and team used high intensity focused ultrasound waves to target a specific point in the Vim nucleus of the thalamus, without surgical incisions or implants. After MRI pinpointed the exact location in the brain where the tremors were coming from, MRI guidance was used to focus the many ultrasound waves on that location.

In clinical studies of patients who underwent MRgFUS for ET, researchers saw a 75 percent improvement in symptoms in treated hands after 12 months. With Lukens’ right hand tremor-free, he hopes to eventually get a procedure to eliminate tremors in his left hand.