Many patients with essential tremor first try medication for relief. Often, other interventional treatments are necessary. Patients unresponsive to medication often undergo a surgical essential tremor treatment such as deep brain stimulation (DBS). However, more recent treatments, such as focused ultrasound, have offered patients relief without the use of surgery. Additional research is being done to compare focused ultrasound to other therapies. Some research shows that focused ultrasound could be a more cost-effective option than deep brain stimulation.
Although deep brain stimulation shows durable results in essential tremor patients, this surgical approach requires a physician to implant electrodes into the brain, blocking brain activity that cause the tremor. However, a non-surgical approach uses focused ultrasound to lesion the area of the brain causing the tremor without ever making an incision. Focused ultrasound is gaining more attention as two-year studies show that patients are experiencing lasting tremor reduction post-treatment.
To get a better picture of cost-effectiveness and the overall benefits of focused ultrasound, researchers from the Stanford University in California researched existing literature of the procedures. Vinod Ravikumar, BS, and Jonathan Parker, MD, Ph.D., used Medicare reimbursement to understand costs and defined overall benefits as the patient’s quality of life and functionality post-treatment.
Their research found that patients who underwent focused ultrasound had higher scores for overall benefits while costing significantly less than deep brain stimulation—by tens of thousands of dollars. While self-payment is needed for those without insurance coverage, the overall cost benefits of focused ultrasound, coupled with its noninvasive nature, may make it appealing for patients with essential tremor.
If you’re struggling with essential tremor and would like to learn more about focused ultrasound, deep brain stimulation, or other treatment options available, the Essential Tremor Education Center is here to help. We aim to educate everyone about essential tremor and help pursue a life with a reduction in tremor. You can learn more about essential tremor treatment by calling 844-NO-TREMOR to speak with our educators.