We use our hands for almost everything—and essential tremor is most significant when your hands are active. Previous essential tremor treatment options ranged from medication to invasive surgery, which has helped many patients. Technology, however, improves quickly. One year ago, focused ultrasound treatments received FDA-approval for essential tremor, and many patients have benefited from the procedure. Let’s look at how far this procedure has come in only a year.
In July 2016, the FDA approved focused ultrasound as a non-invasive treatment of essential tremor. This approval was based on a clinical trial led by Dr. Jeffrey Elias at the University of Virginia Medical Center. This multi-site study also included a significant contribution from each alliance member: Dr. Travis Tierney at Sperling Medical Group, Dr. Ryder Gwinn at Swedish Neuroscience Institute, Dr. Howard Eisenberg at the University of Maryland, and Dr. Michael Kaplitt at Weill Cornell Brain & Spine Center. This study included 76 essential tremor patients who enjoyed an average of 70 reductions in their tremor. Physicians in other countries have also been quick to utilize the procedure. It’s currently available in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Russia, Japan, Korea, and Israel. Centers that practice focused ultrasound are experiencing a backlog of essential tremor patients who are seeking a diminished tremor.
Focused ultrasound has since been more widely adopted. November 2016 marked the first step toward commercial adoption when the Division of Outpatient Care within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services specified a reimbursement fee for the procedure. More recently, the most commonly used MRI technology has been approved for use in the treatment—making it more viable for hospitals to perform the procedure with tools they already have available.
While focused ultrasound has helped many enjoy a diminished tremor, the cost is still a concern keeping patients from this treatment. The next step forward will be for insurance companies to establish coverage for payment. This will open new treatment avenues for other patients who have been unresponsive to medication, or hesitant to try invasive surgery.
Focused ultrasound has come a long way since Dr. Elias’ pivotal study, and we’re excited to see how the treatment evolves in the future. Do you want to learn more about focused ultrasound, or other essential tremor treatment options that may be available? You can contact our team of educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center by calling 844-NO-TREMOR today.