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The Making of Medicine

Focused Ultrasound Offers Parkinson’s Benefits, Study Finds

The latest research from our Dr. Jeff Elias, a pioneer in the field of focused ultrasound, suggests that the scalpel-free technology can improve movement and reduce unwanted shaking and rigidity in many patients with Parkinson's.

Dr. Elias and his collaborators examined the risks and benefits of used focused sound waves to target the globus pallidus, an area deep within the brain. They found that almost 70% of 69 trial participants responded to the treatment. Thirty-nine of them were still enjoying benefits three months later, and 30 were still seeing significant improvements a year after the procedure.

Based on the results, Dr. Elias and his co-investigators conclude that focused ultrasound could be particularly useful for patients who are unable or unwilling to receive deep brain stimulation, a surgery that implants electrodes deep in the brain to accomplish the same goals.

“This study is promising for patients with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. Ultrasound was precisely focused deep inside the brain to alter one of the abnormal circuits of Parkinson’s disease,” Elias said. “But it is important to understand that the treatment improved the neurological symptoms of PD and did not alter its course. Ultimately, we hope to someday cure PD.”

The Parkinson's results have been published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. They were previously shared with the federal Food and Drug Administration, which used them as a key consideration in its decision to expand approval of the technology for the treatment of Parkinson’s in 2021.

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