The findings of a major international trial to test a high-tech, scalpel-free approach to treating movement problems caused by Parkinson’s disease have been published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
UVA neurosurgeon Jeff Elias, MD, and collaborators examined the benefits and risks of using focused ultrasound to target an area deep within the brain called the globus pallidus. The researchers wanted to see if the focused sound waves could improve trial participants’ ability to move and reduce the unwanted shaking and rigidity associated with Parkinson’s.
Of the 69 patients who received the procedure in the randomized trial, almost 70% responded to the treatment. Thirty-nine participants who received the procedure continued to see significant benefits three months later, and 30 of those assessed at the one-year mark continued to see benefits. The procedure, the researchers conclude, could be particularly useful for patients who are ineligible or unwilling to receive deep brain stimulation, a surgery that implants electrodes deep in the brain to accomplish the same symptom-management goals.
The focused-ultrasound trial results were shared with the federal Food and Drug Administration prior to publication and were an important consideration in the agency’s decision to expand approval of the technology for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease in 2021.
“This study is promising for patients with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. Ultrasound was precisely focused deep inside the brain to alter one of the abnormal circuits of Parkinson’s disease,” Elias said. “But it is important to understand that the treatment improved the neurological symptoms of PD and did not alter its course. Ultimately, we hope to someday cure PD.”
Read full press release in the UVA Health Newsroom.