SAN DIEGO — Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating, progressive condition that affects the central nervous system.
Treatment options for those that experience the disorder are few, according to Mayo Clinic, and no cure has been found.
However, Sharp Grossmont Hospital is set to become the first health care provider in San Diego County to offer a revolutionary new treatment that could reduce or even eliminate tremors, which is one of the primary symptoms of the condition.
Called an MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound, the treatment is a non-invasive treatment that utilizes focused ultrasound technology to pinpoint and treat areas in the brain that trigger a patient’s tremors, according to the hospital. It can also be used to treat a similar condition to Parkinson’s known as Essential Tremor.
“This is a brand-new and innovative procedure that’s really only been out the past five years,” said Dr. Vamsi Chavakula, director of functional neurosurgery at Sharp Grossmont. Chavakula has been performing the procedure at other healthcare facilities around the U.S. over the last few years.
As he explained, doctors used focused MRI imaging to direct bits of energy from ultrasound beams to destroy tiny clumps of brain cells that cause the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s and Essential Tremor.
According to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, for some patients, it is a less complicated alternative to typical modes of treatment for their tremors, such as drug therapy or invasive surgery like deep brain stimulation. Doctors say the effects of the treatment can be sometimes be instantaneous.
“While the patient is still in the MRI, we (can) see the tremor disappear,” Chavakula said. “Some of these patients haven’t been able to read their handwriting in over 20 years and here they are for the first time seeing it. For many patients, it’s an overwhelming emotional experience.”
The launch of the new MR-Guided focused ultrasound service is just one step within the hospital’s development of a comprehensive Hospital for Neuroscience. The center is set to open in 2025, according to Sharp Grossmont.