Focused ultrasound treatment for Parkinson’s being tested, pending FDA approval

Researchers from the University of Maryland Medicine – which includes the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) and the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) – have recently made progress with a phase 3 study that tested the safety as well as the efficacy of using MRI-guided focused ultrasound on patient brains in order to treat Parkinson’s disease. The study was deemed pivotal as the last remaining step before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers approving it for widespread use.

  • The researchers developed a method of treating Parkinson’s that uses focused ultrasound wave energy directly on certain parts of the brain.
  • By using MRI to help with guiding the focus, ultrawave energy can be used to essentially ablate cells in certain parts of the body (i.e. in the brain).
  • The method can be used to determine the exact location of certain targets inside the human body, as well as to create a heat map so that it can be easier to know exactly where to aim.
  • Doctors use MRI in order to guide ultrasound waves through a person’s skin and skull so that can more precisely target a region called the globus pallidus, a structure that’s located deep inside the brain that is responsible for voluntary movement.
  • The procedure can be done in an outpatient setting, and the patient can remain awake all through it. The patient needs to be lying in an MRI scanner with a head-immobilizing frame that’s fitted with a transducer helmet.

Although the pilot trial of the procedure proved to be successful, the researchers are still trying to determine its multi-site efficacy. Once approved, it could lead to a new non-invasive treatment option for a large number of people who are looking for alternative forms of treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Journal Reference:

Bond AE, Shah BB, Huss DS, Dallapiazza RF, Warren A, Harrison MB, Sperling SA, Wang X, Gwinn R, Witt J, Ro S, Elias WJ. SAFETY AND EFFICACY OF FOCUSED ULTRASOUND THALAMOTOMY FOR PATIENTS WITH MEDICATION-REFRACTORY, TREMOR-DOMINANT PARKINSON DISEASE: A RANDOMIZED CLINICAL TRIAL. JAMA Neurol. 2017;74(12):1412–1418. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.3098

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