Focused Ultrasound

If you have essential tremor or parkinsonian tremor, MR-guided focused ultrasound may significantly reduce your hand tremor for a better quality of life.

If you have essential tremor or parkinsonian tremor, MR-guided focused ultrasound may significantly reduce your hand tremor for a better quality of life.

If you have essential tremor or parkinsonian tremor that hasn't improved with medication, a treatment called MR-guided focused ultrasound may help you get relief.

What Is Focused Ultrasound?

Focused ultrasound is an incisionless (noninvasive) treatment that uses sound waves (ultrasonic energy) to heat tissue. It can be used to destroy certain tissues, such as tumors or fibroids, or increase blood flow to specific areas of the body.

At RUSH, we offer focused ultrasound combined with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging to reduce hand tremor in people who have essential tremor and parkinsonian tremor. This procedure, called MR-guided focused ultrasound, enables us to precisely target the spot in your brain that controls your tremor — without open surgery.

It's important to note that MR-guided focused ultrasound, like deep brain stimulation, does not treat your underlying disease or prevent disease progression.

How Does Focused Ultrasound Treatment Work?

Ultrasound is typically used to diagnose problems, but in this case, it's 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 in your brain, resulting in a therapeutic effect.

You will be inside of an MRI scanner during the entire procedure. This enables your doctor to easily plan, guide and target the treatment area, and monitor temperature throughout the procedure to ensure that the tissue is treated correctly and thoroughly.

Benefits of MR-guided Focused Ultrasound Treatment

  • 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 your skull, electrodes or inserted probes.
  • No radiation exposure: Ultrasound energy is non-ionizing, meaning you are not exposed to any radiation during the procedure.
  • Go home the same day: 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 and often dramatic results with a single treatment: Most patients at RUSH who have this procedure experience immediate and significant reduction in their hand tremor. Reducing your hand tremor will greatly improve your 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. There's no evidence that the procedure improves tremor in other parts of the body, though you may be able to stand or walk better as a result of the improvement in your hand tremor. See the clinical trial results, which include three-year follow-up data. . 

Is MR-guided Focused Ultrasound Treatment Right for Me?

MR-guided focused ultrasound is FDA approved for people who meet the following certain criteria:

  • You must be least 22 years old for essential tremor and 30 years old for parkinsonian tremor
  • You must have tremor that does not respond to medications

Currently, focused ultrasound is FDA approved for unilateral (one side of the body) treatment of tremor only. Once focused ultrasound is used on one side of your body, we cannot use it to treat the other side, though you can have other types of treatment on the non-treated side. Although most of our patients prefer to treat their dominant hand, some choose the hand that has more severe tremor.

There are additional criteria, so it's important to consult with our team of neurologists and neurosurgeons, who have expertise with MR-guided focused ultrasound, to determine if you are a good candidate.

As part of the process, our team of neurosurgeons and neurologists 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.

We currently perform MR-guided focused ultrasound at RUSH Oak Brook, and we offer focused ultrasound evaluations at RUSH University Medical Center and RUSH Oak Park Hospital.

To schedule an evaluation or for more information, fill out our form or call (312) 563-2032.

Focused Ultrasound Providers at RUSH

Learn more about focused ultrasound providers at RUSH.

Meet our focused ultrasound providers
stethoscope Meet our focused ultrasound providers

Learn More About Focused Ultrasound Treatment

Rush neurosurgeon Sepehr Sani, MD, answers frequently asked questions about MR-guided focused ultrasound, an innovative incisionless treatment for essential tremor and parkinsonian tremor.

RUSH Excellence in Focused Ultrasound Treatment

  • One of only a few sites nationwide: RUSH University Medical Center is the only center in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Missouri currently offering MR-guided focused ultrasound for essential tremor and parkinsonian tremor.
  • Expert evaluation: The only way to know whether you're eligible for MR-guided focused ultrasound is to be evaluated by our team of neurologists and neurosurgeons. We have the expertise to determine whether MR-guided focused ultrasound is right for you. And if you're not eligible, we offer other treatments, including deep brain stimulation (DBS), that may improve your tremor if medications aren't helping.
  • Center of Excellence for Parkinson's disease: When you chose RUSH University Medical Center for tremor care, you can feel confident that you'll receive the highest quality of care. As a Parkinson's Foundation Center of Excellence, RUSH is part of a group of the world's leading Parkinson's programs, with specialists who are renowned for outstanding Parkinson's research, care and outreach.
  • Commitment to your safety: You may have concerns about COVID-19, and we want to reassure you that it’s safe to come to RUSH for focused ultrasound. At RUSH Oak Brook, where we perform the procedure, you’ll have minimal contact with others in the building; we limit the number of staff who interact with each patient; we practice universal masking and social distancing; and we routinely sanitize our space thoroughly. As a result of these measures, we have not had any provider-to-patient transmission in our focused ultrasound program; all our patients so far have been healthy and remained negative for COVID-19.
  • Nationally ranked care: U.S. News & World Report ranked RUSH University Medical Center among the nation's best for neurology and neurosurgery.

Patient Stories

Virginia Velez

Virginia struggled with essential tremor since childhood, but after undergoing MRI-guided focused ultrasound treatment at RUSH, she finally was able to sign her name and live tremor-free.
Read More
Ken's Story

I couldn't believe how quickly the treatment worked. As soon as the procedure was over, they helped me up from the table, took me into another room and handed me an orange drink. I took that drink in my left hand and was able to move it steadily to my mouth and drink without spilling a single drop. It had been years since I could hold a drink without most of the liquid shaking right out.

Read Ken's Story