News / Calgary

No scalpel needed: University of Calgary researchers perform brain surgery without incisions

A research team has successfully used a new ultrasound technology to treat a common type of movement disorder

A team at the University of Calgary's Hotchkiss Brain Institute has successfully used high-intensity ultrasound technology to treat essential tremor, a very common type of movement disorder that's usually managed with medication.

ELIZABETH CAMERON / Calgary Freelance

A team at the University of Calgary's Hotchkiss Brain Institute has successfully used high-intensity ultrasound technology to treat essential tremor, a very common type of movement disorder that's usually managed with medication.

Researchers at the University of Calgary (U of C)’s Cumming School of Medicine have found a way to treat a common disorder with surgery that doesn’t require an incision.

Yes, you read that correctly.

A team at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute has successfully used a new ultrasound technology to treat essential tremor, a very common type of movement disorder that’s usually managed with medication.

For some patients who don’t respond to conventional treatment, the tremors can become so severe that they can no longer dress or feed themselves.

Elias Pharaon, shown here, had the procedure done in August and can how hold and drink a cup of water with one hand – something that required two hands for stability before.

Elizabeth Cameron/Calgary Freelance

Elias Pharaon, shown here, had the procedure done in August and can how hold and drink a cup of water with one hand – something that required two hands for stability before.

Using a high-intensity magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound ('MRgFUS', if you're short on time), the team was able to target specific brain tissues and produce a temporary physiological affect that calmed the tremors.

In one case, the team was able to reduce the shaking in one patient’s arm enough that he could sign his name for the first time in five years after the procedure.

“To see them come in, lie on the MRI scanner and two hours later get up, get a drink of water and sign their name, that really is quite impressive,” said Bruce Pike with the Cumming School of Medicine and member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

“It really is life changing for them.”

He said the technology marks the beginning of a much larger future research opportunity.

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