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MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound

MR-guided focused ultrasound is an incisionless treatment for essential tremor or parkinsonian tremor that uses sound waves to treat the specific spot in the brain that controls tremor.

This innovative treatment is an alternative to more invasive procedures like deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. It is FDA approved for people who meet certain criteria, including the following:

  • Being at least 22 years old for essential tremor and 30 years old for parkinsonian tremor
  • Having tremor that does not respond to medications

Currently, it is approved to treat tremor on one side of the body (unilateral tremor) only.

Rush is the only center in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri to offer MR-guided focused ultrasound. Our movement disorders specialists have the expertise to evaluate each person and determine whether MR-guided focused ultrasound is the best approach, or if another treatment like deep brain stimulation (DBS) is more appropriate.

How does MR-guided focused ultrasound work?

Ultrasound is typically used to diagnose problems, but in this case, it is used as a therapy.

During the procedure, sound waves are directed from all different angles towards the target, the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) of the thalamus. When these sound waves come together in the target, they generate sufficient heat to make a tiny lesion, resulting in a therapeutic effect.

The whole procedure is conducted inside an MRI imaging scanner, so the doctor can easily plan, guide and target the treatment area, and monitor temperature throughout the procedure to ensure that the tissue is treated correctly and thoroughly.

What are the benefits of MR-guided focused ultrasound?

  • Incisionless approach. The VIM of the thalamus is the same area that has been targeted for years with surgery. However, focused ultrasound does not require incisions, holes in the skull, electrodes or inserted probes.
  • No radiation exposure. Ultrasound energy is non-ionizing, meaning the patient is not exposed to radiation during the procedure.
  • No hospital stay. Because there is no anesthesia or incisions, this can be performed as an outpatient procedure. You will be able to leave the hospital the same day.
  • Immediate results with a single treatment. People who have had this procedure have shown an immediate and significant reduction in tremor, which greatly improves the ability to do everyday activities such as eating, drinking, writing and getting dressed. As with any treatment, individual results may vary; it is possible that your tremor may not improve, or that it may improve but then return months or years after treatment. And it’s important to understand that MR-guided focused ultrasound, like deep brain stimulation, does not treat the underlying disease or prevent disease progression.

Is MR-guided focused ultrasound right for me?

MR-guided focused ultrasound is intended for people with essential tremor or parkinsonian tremor who are at least 22 years old and have not responded to medications. There are additional criteria, so it’s important to consult with a movement disorders specialist who has expertise with MR-guided focused ultrasound to determine if you are a good candidate.

As part of the process, the doctor will perform a full medical evaluation to assess your overall condition and to determine the severity of your tremor. This is necessary to ensure safe and effective treatment for your condition. You will also need to have a CT scan to verify that MR-guided focused ultrasound is suitable for you.

Get the answers to more Frequently Asked Questions about MR-guided focused ultrasound

Contact Us

We are currently offering MR-guided focused ultrasound at our Rush Oak Brook location.

To schedule an evaluation with a Rush movement disorders specialist, please send an email to neurofus@rush.edu.