Novel treatment for essential tremor

Queen Square Imaging Centre, London, has installed the UK independent healthcare sector’s first MR-guided focused ultrasound system – a treatment that can give immediate relief for people with essential tremor.  

The Queen Square team with the first patient to undergo the new magnetic resonance-focussed ultrasound treatment

Over 1m people are diagnosed with the condition in the UK and around 25% suffer from disabling tremors. The treatment uses precision-guided sound waves to achieve targeted thermal tissue ablation of key areas in the brain that cause the uncontrollable shaking or trembling associated with the condition.

A unique collaboration with functional neurosurgeons at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery enables Queen Square to offer patients the choice of all primary surgical treatment options for essential tremor –alongside deep brain stimulation and radiofrequency ablation. 

Consultant neurosurgeon Mr Jonathan Hyam said: ‘We have been using minimal access techniques to treat tremor at Queen Square for many years. This new focused ultrasound technique will be a further leap, as there is no requirement for an incision in the scalp or skull or passage of instruments through the brain. 

‘Many patients find this more acceptable and desirable. Focused ultrasound therapy provides the opportunity for patients to undergo brain treatment as a day case or outpatient procedure. 

‘It also increases the number of patients who can be offered treatment, since patients with other significant medical conditions can usually be treated this way.’

The ultrasound system is owned and operated by QS Enterprises Ltd, a not-for-profit trading subsidiary of the UCLH Charity. Chief executive Jodee Cooper said: ‘While we will begin as a private patient service, it is our intention to seek NHS commissioning in time to assist with the burden on growing NHS waiting lists. We are also looking forward to collaborating with the neurosurgeons on research which will hopefully develop new applications for this treatment beyond essential tremor.’

The first patient to be treated, Linda, experienced ‘an immediate and significant reduction in the tremor in her right arm’ after 20 years with the condition.

Operations manager Peter Sutton said: ‘To achieve the result we saw with our first patient would previously require much more invasive surgical intervention, with longer recovery times and higher risk.’