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MR-guided focused ultrasound: A game-changing innovation that is redefining surgery

April 18, 2017
Maurice R. Ferre
From the April 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Maurice R. Ferré

Modern surgery has become extremely advanced. Over the last several decades, we have made great strides in combating life-threatening diseases due to significant improvements in both imaging and technology. At the same time, the health care system is bearing a heavy burden with lengthy hospitalization and increased risks of infection.

Ultrasound technology, past and present
Since the 1950s, ultrasound waves were used for safe diagnostic imaging of a developing fetus. The first time we saw noninvasive surgery was on “Star Trek” and it seemed unattainable back then. We have caught up with that futuristic “Star Trek” technology with the development of focused ultrasound for treating inside the body without making any cuts.

When ultrasound energy is raised to high temperatures and focused on a target, a noninvasive treatment of tissue within the body can be performed, while minimizing damage to adjacent healthy tissue. MRI is ideal for imaging and is necessary in order to plan the treatment, identify the target area and monitor the procedure in real time. Procedures can be performed in a single treatment and have been proven to be both safe and effective. The risks of bleeding and infections are reduced or eliminated, hospitalization is minimized or avoided altogether and patients can quickly return to their lives.

Treating essential tremor
Essential tremor is a neurological condition that causes shaking of the hands and other parts of the body, affecting up to 10 million Americans. Medication is used as a first line of treatment, but as there are no medications specifically designed to treat essential tremor, they can have serious side effects or provide little to no improvement.

Invasive procedures are the next line of treatment, including thalamotomy and deep brain stimulation (DBS), which involves placing electrodes in the brain, as well as fitting a pacemaker-like device into the patient’s chest. MRgFUS allows neurosurgeons to noninvasively target and ablate the Vim nucleus of the thalamus in a treatment that typically lasts three to four hours. Data from a multi-center clinical study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that patients generally experience an immediate and significant reduction in their tremor following the procedure. Neurosurgeons at leading U.S. treatment centers are treating essential tremor patients with this technology.

Treating uterine fibroids

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