When you think of brain surgery, in addition to being incredibly intricate and delicate, scalpels and clamps and an OR come to mind. As it happens, there is another way to treat certain brain conditions without spilling a drop of blood. Sound waves are the new scalpels in treating essential tremor, which affects more than 7 million people in the United States. Patients who live with essential tremor are often left out of social gatherings and unable to participate in hobbies they used to because of how the tremor impacts their ability to complete specific tasks.
The patient is fitted with a brace around their head, and ultrasound pulses are beamed through the equipment directly to the area of the brain that is causing the tremor. MRI imaging is used in real time during the procedure, and even just a tiny part of the brain tissue can be targeted effectively. The patient is awake during the surgery and will complete tasks like drawing a circle or writing their name so the team can see if the correct areas are being ablated. They start out with low-frequency waves and increase the strength as the patient can tolerate. In this video, the patient had a 40% improvement in her hand tremors.