New ultrasound treatment effectively reduces Parkinson’s symptoms

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In a study from the University of Maryland, scientists found that patients with Parkinson’s disease achieved a big improvement in their tremors, mobility, and other physical symptoms after having a minimally invasive procedure involving focused ultrasound.

The team tested 94 Parkinson’s disease patients who were assigned to undergo focused ultrasound to ablate a targeted region on one side of the brain or to have a sham procedure.

They found nearly 70% of patients in the treatment group were considered successful responders to treatment after three months of follow-up, compared to 32% in the control group who had an inactive procedure without focused ultrasound.

In addition, two-thirds of those who responded initially to the focused ultrasound treatment continued to have a successful response from the treatment a year later.

The team says these results are very promising and offer Parkinson’s disease patients a new form of therapy to manage their symptoms. There is no incision involved, which means no risk of a serious infection or brain bleeding.

About one million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects brain cells or neurons in a specific area of the brain that produces the brain chemical dopamine.

Symptoms include shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Other treatments for Parkinson’s include medications and deep brain stimulation (DBS) from surgically implanted electrodes.

The medications can cause involuntary, erratic movements called dyskinesia as doses are increased to control symptoms.

Usually offered when medications fail, DBS involves brain surgery to insert the electrodes through two small openings in the skull.

The procedure carries a small risk of serious side effects, including brain hemorrhage and infection.

The current study will help doctors and patients make an informed decision when considering this new treatment modality to help better manage symptoms.

The team says it’s important for patients to realize that none of the treatments currently available will cure Parkinson’s disease.

The ultrasound device, called Exablate Neuro, was approved over a year ago by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat advanced Parkinson’s disease on one side of the brain.

The study was conducted by Howard Eisenberg et al and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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