Weird Medicine

Ultrasound Technology Reportedly Relieves Parkinson’s Symptoms

The onset of Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder, begins at the age of 60 with symptoms such as hand, foot or leg tremors, stiffness, gait abnormalities and lack of coordination. 

Only 4 percent of people show signs of the disease before reaching 50 years old, while 1 percent of the population above the age of 60 is said to have the condition. At any given time, 1 million Americans are suffering from Parkinson’s disease, while 60,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. 

PD is generally treated with medications that target the substantia nigra part of the brain to increase dopamine production or to decrease acetylcholine production in order to restore the brain’s chemical balance. When these treatment options are exhausted, surgery should be only considered depending on the patient’s overall health. 

Deep brain stimulation is performed through an invasive surgery by drilling holes into the skull to implant electrodes in the brain. Once that is accomplished, electric current is sent to the small malfunctioning area of the brain via an implanted battery pack on the chest. 

What The New Study Revealed

A recent study that focused on a non-invasive radiological procedure was presented at the Radiological Society of North America 105th Scientific Assembly, which was held in Chicago. The study was led by Federico Bruno, a radiologist in the Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences at the University of L'Aquila in Italy. 

The procedure called the magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) thalamotomy

is the process of radiofrequency energy beams emitting heat to tear down a small portion of the thalamus structure in the brain. The opposite side of the body with respect to the location of the radiofrequency treatment suffering from essential tremors (ET) improves after. For example, if the left hemisphere of the brain is under MRgFUS thalamotomy, the right side of the body’s tremors are relieved.  

Researchers had 39 participants in the study with a mean age of 64.5. Essential tremors occur only while in motion and not everyone who exhibits tremors gets Parkinson’s disease, which is slightly different from the former. The study included both conditions. Of the participants, 18 were diagnosed with ET while 21 with PD and their symptoms consistently recurred for over a decade.  

For the analysis, researchers assessed the patients at three stages. First, they evaluated the quality of life before receiving MRgFUS thalamotomy treatment. Next, participants were checked immediately after the experiment ended, and finally, several times during the following year. 

In all the follow-up evaluations, the quality of life improved for both groups. It was found that 37 out of 39 patients showed significant decrease in tremors, which translates to a 95 percent success rate of the MRgFUS thalamotomy treatment tested out by the study. 

"The study we present reports our experience of over a year in the treatment of tremor by thalamotomy with focused ultrasound. It is worth noting that we had a high number of patients with Parkinson's disease in our series, compared to previously published data, where the procedure was used mainly in the treatment of essential tremor patients," Bruno said as quoted in the news release.

"The clinical application of this technique for neurological diseases is an absolute novelty -- the clinical use was approved by the FDA less than three years ago. Few patients know of this treatment option so far, and there are not many specialized centers equipped with the required technology," Bruno added. 

Parkinson's hands Typical Parkinson's symptoms include hand tremors and movement problems, though it has been difficult to pinpoint a single cause for the neurodegenerative disease. Pixabay, public domain

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