Evolution of High Intensity Focused Ultrasound to Treat Essential Tremor: Justin Sporrer, MD


The director of functional neurosurgery at Baptist Health provided perspective on the advances of high intensity focused ultrasound as the institution nears 100 patients treated. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

"We've known for decades that an ablation or damage to a very specific population of cells within the thalamus results in tremor suppression. The difference is that in the past, we had to do that surgically by inserting a thermal electrode and heating up the tip, burning those cells and then suppressing tremor."

Although some patients with essential tremor don’t require treatment, there are several available options for those who do. Typical medications include beta blockers such as propranolol to help relieve tremors, antiseizure medications, tranquilizers, and onabotulintumtoxinA, which has been used at times for head and voice tremors specifically. Patients may opt for physical or occupational therapy as ways to help improve muscle strength, control and coordination.

With advances in neurosurgery, approaches such as deep brain stimulation and focused ultrasound thalamotomy, have gained even more attention, especially for severely disabling tremors. One type of therapy, high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), sends more than 1000 beams of ultrasound through the skull to a specific location of the brain, disrupting abnormal circuits. HIFU has become an increasingly popular option for patients who don’t want brain surgery in the traditional sense, or may not be candidates for deep brain stimulation.

At Baptist Health, the institution is nearing 100 patients treated with HIFU, a landmark for the community. Recently, NeurologyLive® sat down with Justin Sporrer, MD, director of functional neurosurgery at Baptist Health, to discuss the evolution of HIFU and how it differs from other neurosurgical procedures. Additionally, he spoke about the lessons learned over time with the treatment, and how experience plays a factor into neurosurgery.

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