Sounds Like Victory: New Ultrasonic Brain Surgery Heals Tremors Sans Cracking Skulls

It sounds like something out of the future, but it's actually in operational trials for human beings right now:  a new type of surgery that uses ultrasonic sound waves to target specific neurons for eradication, thus healing certain brain malfunctions non-invasively...


This is a "song" that can heal certain brain anomalies,
if it gets stuck in your head properly.
(Image courtesy itnonline.com.)

According to CBC.ca, a team at Sunnybrook Health Sciences in Toronto, Canada, is using this new technology to treat patients who suffer from "essential tremors", a debilitating disease that threatens the quality of life dramatically in whom it afflicts.  Essential tremors, while not life-threatening, cause spasms that make victims spasm in a manner that could stop them from doing tasks as simple as holding a glass or writing their name.


The pre-op signature of Maureen, one of the patients in the study.
(Image courtesy cbc.ca.)

Forty patients have been selected for the clinical trial.  The process involves the afflicted patients undergoing an "MRI-guided focused ultrasound" wherein the focus of the ultrasound targets the specific troublesome neurons in the brain's thalamus that are responsible for the tremors.  While in an MRI machine, the doctors can "see" the affected areas, and use pulses of ultrasonic sound to break up the neurons desired.

Sunnybrook neurosurgeon Dr. Nir Lipsman extolled, "This is a game changer...It really changes the way we think about surgical treatments for tremor. No scalpel needed. No drill needed."

In Dr. Lipsman's initial study of 76 patients, 47% saw improvement within 3 months of treatment, with 40% reporting marked  improvements within the year.  Side effects only included some gait disturbance and numbness.  The procedure takes about four hours.

Maureen's signature, post-operation.
She was reported to have leapt from her wheelchair and
danced an Irish jig with joy at the cure.
(Image courtesy cbc.ca.)

This take on technology could feasibly rewrite the book for the methodology behind a variety of surgeries.  Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, director of physical sciences at Sunnybrook Research Institute and part of the technique's development team, states the ultrasonic surgery "will open up a new era that will revolutionize the way brain diseases will be treated, eventually benefitting millions of patients." 

Good soundwaves...is there anything they can't do?



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