DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – The brain surgery is undergoing clinical trials around the world, but it requires no incisions or blood tests.
This medical procedure, known as focused ultrasound, targets parts of the brain with sound waves to disrupt faulty brain circuits that cause disease symptoms, such as idiopathic tremors, depression, etc.
“Focused Ultrasound is a non-invasive therapeutic technique,” said Dr. Neil Cassell, Founder and President of Focused Ultrasound.
He continued, “Focused ultrasound is the most powerful sound you won’t hear, but it could save your life one day.”
Castle describes how it works as “similar to using a magnifying glass to focus beams of light on a point to etch a hole in a piece of paper”.
“Using focused ultrasound, instead of using an optical lens to focus light beams, an acoustic lens is used to focus multiple beams of ultrasound energy onto targets deep within the body with a high degree of accuracy, while sparing nearby normal tissue.”
The procedure has been extremely beneficial for people suffering from essential tremor, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary and regular tremors. It can affect almost any part of the body, but the tremors most often occur in the hands, especially when performing simple tasks, such as eating, drinking, or writing.
Essential tremor is usually more noticeable on one side of the body and may worsen with movement. It is most common in people aged 40 and over and affects around 25 million people worldwide, according to a 2021 study.
How it works?
Focused ultrasound is a form of functional neurosurgery that targets tiny structures deep in the brain to modify them, restore their function or prevent tumor growth.
Experts have said it is an alternative treatment for those who do not respond to conventional drug therapy.
Focused ultrasound technology uses a transducer to force beams of sound waves to converge at a single point to increase temperature and destroy tissue.
Before receiving the high-intensity focused ultrasound needed to treat essential tremor, patients should shave their heads, as air can sometimes get trapped in the hair follicles.
The patient then undergoes an MRI and CT scan, so doctors can use the images obtained to determine the structure of the brain and the target area.
Advantages and disadvantages
In general, anyone diagnosed with essential tremor who is unresponsive to medication would be eligible for focused ultrasound treatment, said Dr. Nir Liebesman, a scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Canada.
As for people who cannot have an MRI because they suffer from claustrophobia or have a metallic object inside their body, they are not eligible to receive focused ultrasound treatment, according to Dr. Noah Phillip, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Albert College. of Medicine at Brown University of California.
Ideally, Lipsmann noted, the benefits of focused ultrasound are permanent. “If we can destroy the part of the brain responsible for the tremor, this procedure should have a permanent effect,” he said.
“However, within a year, some of these patients will have a recurrence of tremors, and we don’t know why.”
Such a recurrence can also occur with drug therapy, which is why some patients with essential tremor seek focused ultrasound first.
However, some patients saw benefits five years after having a focused ultrasound, according to a 2022 study.
Due to the potential side effects of focused ultrasound, it is important to have the procedure tested. If the wrong area is targeted or overtreated, the patient’s balance and long-term stability can be damaged.
Lipsmann explained that the most common risks patients face are temporary numbness or tingling that can sometimes occur in the treated arm or lip area, noting that most of these cases resolve over time.
Other risks, usually temporary, include slight instability of the patient’s foot after the operation.
Liebesmann pointed out that doctors do not use general anesthesia and do not hospitalize patients for this procedure.