HI-FU could stop hand tremors

COLUMBUS, OH. — Imagine the frustration of living with hands that shake uncontrollably – making even simple things like writing or eating a challenge. That’s a reality for about 10 million Americans who live with a condition known as essential tremors. Most simply have to learn to cope with it but a new non–invasive procedure could change that. As ABC 10’s Sarah Mac shows us, doctors are testing a new therapy that regains control over the tremors by burning brain cells.

Since he was teenager, Stephen Palovchik has suffered from hand tremors, making everyday activities like working and eating a challenge and writing nearly impossible. But after decades the tremors are gone.

Stephen says, “My right hand is basically rock solid as you can see. Which is pretty amazing since it’s almost two weeks and a day, I think, from when I had the procedure.”

The procedure is known as MR guided–focused ultrasound. Basically, to steady Stephen’s hand, doctors used ultrasound waves to make a tiny lesion in his brain and short circuit the area causing his tremors.

Dr. Ali Rezai of Ohio State’s Wexnr Medical Center says, “This is brain surgery without cutting the skin. So, noninvasively, the ultrasound waves are delivered and converge into part of the brain that’s malfunctioning, causing the tremor.”

Dr. Ali Rezai and his team performed the procedure at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Also known as high intensity focused ultrasound, or Hi–Fu, more than a thousand ultrasound rays converge in the brain, gradually heat up to 150 degrees and precisely burn certain cells.

The effect is immediate, and lasting.

Dr. Vibhor Krishna of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center says, “There is some healing that happens, but complete rewiring or complete regeneration is not possible in rain. So we take advantage of that part.”

To keep Stephen’s scalp from burning, the rays pass through a helmet of cooled water. The MRI verifies where the doctors should target and monitors progress in real time. And several times during the procedure, doctors tested Stephen’s handwriting to see if it was improving.

Even in the midst of all this – he knew it was.

Stephen says, “If anybody saw me after the procedure, I mean I was literally in tears. Because it’s been almost a lifelong ordeal…It was just, to me, a gift from heaven.”

Information courtesy of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.