If hand tremors from essential tremor are making it hard to take care of yourself and enjoy your favorite activities, you may be a good candidate for Focused Ultrasound.

This non-surgical procedure, which is available at Regional One Health’s East Campus Imaging Center, can provide immediate, lasting relief for hand tremors with no incision and no hospital stay.

Our Focused Ultrasound team is available to consult with patients to see if they qualify for the procedure, which is covered by Medicare and most major private insurance plans.

Regional One Health’s focused ultrasound program has helped numerous patients regain their independence and ability to do favorite activities by providing immediate and lasting relief for hand tremors.

If you’re struggling with a tremor, how do you know if this procedure is right for you?

Neurosurgeon Aaron Bond, MD said many patients can benefit from this non-surgical procedure that requires no incision and no hospital stay. However, there are a few qualifying factors to keep in mind.

How old are you?

Patients must be at least 22 years old. However, Dr. Bond said, there is no upper age limit for the procedure: “We’ve treated patients well into their 90s, and they’ve had excellent results.”

What is your diagnosis?

Patients should have a confirmed diagnosis from their neurologist of essential tremor or tremor-dominant Parkinson’s disease.

“Focused ultrasound uses ultrasound energy to treat a spot in the brain that is responsible for hand tremors caused by these conditions,” Dr. Bond said. “Tremors caused by other conditions do not respond to focused ultrasound.”

Medicare covers focused ultrasound for both essential tremor and tremor-dominant Parkinson’s. Most private insurers cover the procedure for essential tremor, and more and more are offering coverage for tremor-dominant Parkinson’s patients.

Prior to having a focused ultrasound procedure, patients must try at least two medications for their tremors. If medication does not provide relief, the patient can see if they are a good candidate for focused ultrasound.

Have you tried medication?

Patients need to try two medications first.

“Generally, beta blockers, anti-seizure medications and anti-anxiety medications work pretty well when your tremors are just starting,” Dr. Bond said. “When the medication stops working, people often seek out a procedure.”

Is your skull compatible?

During focused ultrasound, doctors use MR imaging to direct ultrasound waves through the skull to treat the spot in the brain that causes tremor. Patients therefore need to have a compatible skull density ratio in order for the procedure to work.

Prior to focused ultrasound, Dr. Bond performs a CT scan of the skull to check on this. “Around 80 percent of patients are able to proceed after their CT,” he said.

Can you have an MRI?

Patients are awake during a focused ultrasound. They lie still on their back on a treatment table that goes in and out of an MRI several times over the course of 2 to 3 hours.

If you have MRI contraindications such as obesity, certain types of pacemakers, claustrophobia or other conditions, focused ultrasound may not be a good option.

Can you communicate sensations?

During a focused ultrasound, patients are awake and travel in and out of an MRI several times over the course of 2-3 hours. Therefore, to qualify for focused ultrasound you must be able to tolerate an MRI and communicate sensations during the procedure.

During a focused ultrasound, patients are asked to communicate any side effects such as feeling dizzy or unsteady. They are also asked to perform tasks, like drawing a spiral or touching the doctor’s finger, so see how their tremor is responding.

This allows the medical team to make real-time adjustments to minimize side effects and ensure the procedure is treating the exact spot responsible for the patient’s tremors.

Therefore, patients with dementia or other conditions that would keep them from communicating with the procedure team may not be good candidates for focused ultrasound.

Learn more!

Dr. Bond encourages patients to explore focused ultrasound if their hand tremors are having a negative impact on their quality of life. The procedure is proven safe and effective at treating hand tremors with no incision and no hospital stay, and with few serious side effects.

“Essential tremor and tremor-dominant Parkinson’s can be debilitating conditions and impact a patient’s ability to eat, write and take care of themselves,” he said. “Focused ultrasound can have an immediate impact on improving a patient’s quality of life.”

Focused Ultrasound is available at Regional One Health’s East Campus Imaging Center. Visit www.regionalonehealth.org/fus/ to learn more about whether focused ultrasound is right for you.