(BPT) - Sitting in the waiting room of Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center, Roy Schmidt admired the artwork on the walls thinking to himself, “I would love to be able to do that again.” An artist and writer, Roy had to put many of his hobbies and passions aside when his Essential Tremor (ET) made it too difficult to hold a paintbrush with a steady hand or type on a keyboard without making constant mistakes.
After living with ET for more than 20 years and experiencing minimal relief from the various medications he tried, Roy began doing his own research and came across Focused Ultrasound, an outpatient treatment option for those living with this movement disorder. After discussing the treatment with his neurologist, Roy was connected to Dr. Charles Munyon, head of functional and restorative neurosurgery for Novant Health. Dr. Munyon provided the expertise and guidance Roy needed to ultimately decide to move forward with the treatment.
“On the day of my treatment, everyone at Novant Health was wonderful. I was treated like a person, not just a number,” Roy shared.
During the procedure, ultrasound energy is guided by MRI to precisely target and treat a small spot in the brain considered to be responsible for tremor, the Vim of the thalamus. The Focused Ultrasound team conducts a series of tests throughout the treatment to evaluate progress. Roy felt no sensations or pain throughout the treatment and left the MRI with a majorly reduced tremor in his right hand. He did experience temporary issues with balance, speech and gait for a few months following the treatment, but all side effects have subsided today.
A few hours after his treatment, Roy was out getting dinner with his wife. As he went to take a sip of his drink, he noticed the soda in his right hand hadn’t spilled a drop, something that would have been impossible before the Focused Ultrasound treatment.
These days, Roy spends hours a day working on his paintings and even has a few on display at a nearby gallery. He’s writing short stories again and is the Commodore of his retirement community’s sailing club where he sails radio control model sailboats requiring complex rigging and setup. Most importantly, he’s regained his confidence and feels like himself again. He’s even helping his friends with ET find out if they might be candidates for the treatment too.
“Many of our patients have suffered for years or even decades with debilitating movement disorders,” said Dr. Munyon. “Tremor can rob patients of their livelihoods, their favorite hobbies, their enjoyment of dining out or celebrating with friends, and even their self-sufficiency. That’s why it’s so rewarding for our entire team when we can use this new technology to offer patients not only renewed control of their hands, but also renewed control of their lives.”
Since FDA approval in 2016 for the unilateral treatment of ET that does not respond to medications, the availability of this technology has grown around the world. Today in the U.S., there are 34 medical centers with Focused Ultrasound programs helping to transform lives on a regular basis.
Not every patient is a candidate for Focused Ultrasound treatment. Since the treatment is done under MRI guidance, the patient must be able to be placed in an MRI machine. Someone who has metal implants may not be suitable. Additionally, a patient’s skull density must be evaluated with a CT scan before their suitability for treatment can be determined. More information about risks associated with the procedure can be found at https://usa.essential-tremor.com/safety-information.
Learn more about Focused Ultrasound treatment and take a short quiz to see if you could be a candidate at https://usa.essential-tremor.com/candidate/ or call an Insightec Educator at 1-800-704-6797.