Feb. 24, 2023 – In a clinical trial, a procedure using ultrasound and requiring no incisions successfully reduced a side effect of Parkinson’s treatments known as dyskinesia, which is an involuntary movement of the body. The ultrasound also improved motor impairment in people with Parkinson’s disease.
The procedure used in the trial is called focused ultrasound ablation, which is different than using ultrasound for imaging purposes. Instead, focused ultrasound ablation is like using a magnifying glass to focus sunlight on a target. The ultrasound wavelengths can target body tissue, heat it, and destroy it. For the Parkinson’s procedure, the target was in the brain.
“Focused ultrasound is an exciting new treatment for patients with certain neurological disorders,” said researcher Vibhor Krishna, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery at UNC School of Medicine, in a statement. “The procedure is incisionless, eliminating the risks associated with surgery. Using focused ultrasound, we can target a specific area of the brain and safely ablate the diseased tissue.”
The study was published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine. A total of 94 patients were randomly assigned to receive the treatment or to participate in a sham procedure, which acted as a control. After 3 months, 69% of patients who got the treatment showed improvement.
Parkinson’s is a brain disease that disables brain cells that make dopamine, which helps coordinate body movement. Dyskinesia tends to arise when Parkinson’s treatments are working to control the common symptoms of the root illness such as tremor, slowness, stiffness, and balance problems.
“Feeling stressed or excited also can bring out dyskinesia,” according to information on the disorder from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. “Many people say they prefer dyskinesia to stiffness or decreased mobility. Others, though, have painful dyskinesia or movements that interfere with exercise or social or daily activities.”
The foundation estimates that nearly 1 million people in the U.S. have Parkinson’s, which is a progressive disorder for which there is no cure.