A team of University of Calgary physicians and researchers performed brain surgery using a new technology magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS). The technology allowed surgeons to access the brain without cutting the skin or drilling into the skull.
Dr Zelma Kiss, a neurosurgeon said, "We are able to see the brain with real-time imaging and target a beam of high-intensity ultrasound to the brain region responsible for tremor. The patient is awake the whole time and the results are immediate."
Elias Pharaon came from B.C. for the treatment at Foothills Medical Centre and volunteered to undergo the procedure and participate in the research project. The MRgFUS system is the only one in Western Canada.
He said I could not believe the tremor in my right hand was gone. I did not feel anything during the procedure. The procedure changed my life and made me go out in public again.
Essential tremor is the most common type of movement disorder and is usually treated with medication. For some, the medication does not work and the tremors become so severe people can no longer dress or feed themselves.
The condition occurs because different parts of the brain are not talking to each other properly, and the abnormal network function causes the tremor to appear, said Dr Davide Martino, the movement disorder specialist.
Martino would identify patients who qualify for treatment and conduct all the follow-up work for the research study, which would include brain scans, clinical evaluations, cognitive and functional testing, and motor and sensory abilities over time.
Dr Bruce Pike, professor in the departments of Radiology and Clinical Neurosciences said the idea of neurosurgery in an awake patient without breaking the skin is revolutionary.
With the use of the technology we are looking at different treatment options for a number of devastating brain diseases such as Parkinson's disease, dementia, epilepsy and brain tumours."
Dr Jon Meddings, the dean, said: "This is a wonderful example of precision health research. The future of health is accurately diagnosing and providing individualized treatments to our patients. The remarkable results of the MRgFUS program show how new technologies can make precision health a reality."