Modern medicine is a miracle. What seemed impossible just a few years ago, has changed dramatically thanks to technology. For anyone suffering from a chronic condition, new medicines and new procedures promising relief are a gift from heaven.
But this isn’t heaven. We are bound in these earthly bodies as long as we walk upon this earth, and as promising as technology is, there will always be consequences and dealing with the after effects of medicine or procedures designed to eliminate suffering, or at least, lessen the problem to a degree that makes daily life easier.
For years, the only relief from the daily struggles of ET came in the form of drugs or DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation), where a surgeon implants a tiny device into the area causing the tremor. The device is connected to a small battery that is surgically placed under the skin along the neckline, much in the same way a pacemaker would be implanted. A wire leading from the battery to the area of the brain being treated, sends out electrical currents that disrupt abnormal impulses. My explanation is of course, very crude and I encourage people reading this blog to read the link to learn more in depth about DBS. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/deep-brain-stimulation/about/pac-20384562
DBS is a very invasive surgery, and for that reason alone, many patients have shied away from this procedure. Many people with ET have reported life changing results, and for patients who were disabled due to their tremors, life changing would be an understatement. But it is not without risks, as with all procedures. In dealing with the brain, difficulties can arise. Prolonged tingling, numbing, strokes, and vision disturbances, either temporary or long term, are risk factors that need to be considered. The operation is not pleasant as I have been told. And the fact that the patient is awake during the procedure makes it a frightening prospect for many people.
Along comes Focused Ultrasound.
Focused Ultrasound is the newest innovation in movement disorders. Ultrasound is basically high frequency sound waves that can pass through skin and bone. It allows imaging of areas within the body to be seen at a range not capable with x-ray. Most of us have had an ultrasound at one time or another for pain related issues. An ultrasound is ordered by your doctor so he or she may view what is going on in your body. It is a bit technical, but if you want to learn more about it, check out this website for more information. (https://www.fusfoundation.org/the-technology/overview)
Focused Ultrasound has, and is being used for treatment of various health conditions, and it is realatively safe for most individuals. For patients with Essential Tremor, the ultrasound is targeted at a specific area in the brain cauisng the patients’ tremor and ablates (destroys) the tissue in that area of the brain, the thalamus, in patients with ET. Note, the entire thalamus is not ablated, just the specific area within the thalamus causing the tremor. The energy generated by the ultrasound is administered in increasing amounts until the patient is able to demonstrate lessening of the tremor.
As with Deep Brain Stimulation, the patient is awake during the procedure. However, as this is non-invasive, the focused ultrasound requires no incision and many patients are able to return home after the procedure, though in some cases, your doctor might require the patient to stay the night in a hospital for observation. In most clinical studies, more than 50% of patients with ET, where medication had not improved the patients’ tremor, saw an improvement in their condition.
There are however, risks involved with any medical procedure, and it is important to discuss all possible reactions as well as both short and long-term effects of treatment. Some patients reported tingling/numbness in hands and fingers during or after their procedure using Focused Ultrasound. Headache, dizziness, gait disturbances were also reported. There have also been reports of tissue damage to areas other than the focused treatment area, hemmorrhage resulting in emergency treatment, burns to skin, scar formation, and blood clots. In some studies, the patients’ tremor returned, but these were very few occurences.
Patients with kidney disease, heart conditions, a history of hypertension, clotting disorders, taking anticoagulant drugs, and those who cannot tolerate lying flat for several hours, are not considerd candidates for Focused Ultrasound. Source: https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm510595.htm
There are always pros and cons for any procedure, and it is important to note here that this blog is not a substitute for seeking medical advice; only basic information. Patients should always review with their doctor(s) in regards to their health and well-being. Ask as many questions as you can. Although Focused Ultrasound has been used successfully in the past, in the world of medicine, it is still considered a new procedure and not all possible side effects are known.
For right now, I am continuing my medication and using CBD oil. I cannot reccomend or defend one option over another. Every person is unique and knows their own body better than anyone else. I hope this information helps those considering Focused Ultrasound, and as always, listen to your doctor and your own heart.