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Focused Ultrasound Promising for Parkinson Disease Tremors


October 30, 2017

A small pilot study published in JAMA Neurology saw positive results after they used focused ultrasound to treat Parkinson patients with medication-resistant tremors.

Jeff Elias, MD, University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), conducted a trial for 3 months that included 27 participants who had treatment-resistant Parkinson tremors. Twenty patients were randomly assigned to be treated with focused ultrasound waves—waves that send sound through the skull to focus on a tiny spot so as to interrupt faulty brain circuits. The other 7 participants received a placebo procedure (Published online October 30, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.3098).

After 3 months, improvements were seen in individuals who received the ultrasound therapy. Some fine motor skills were restored and participants reported increased quality of life. Those who received the fake procedure also improved slightly, suggesting a placebo effect.

Side effects were also reported, however. Two participants reported mild weakness on one side of the body, but this later improved. Numbness of the face and finger were also reported, and this side effect was persistent.
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Authors said that the ultrasound treatment does not impact the progression of PD, and it has only been tested by the team in patients with tremor-dominant presentation of the disease. “The idea is that the tremors are just one less problem,” Dr Elias said. “We’re not altering the course of the disease, but it’s a quality-of-life improvement” (The Daily Progress. October 30, 2017).

With this pilot study concluded, authors hope to begin a large, multicenter study to further investigate how focused ultrasound treatment could help in managing PD.—Amanda Del Signore  

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