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Houston Physicians’ Hospital Performs Its 100th MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound Treatment for Essential Tremor

The hospital is the first facility in Houston to perform the cutting-edge incisionless treatment to help patients gain relief from essential tremor

WEBSTER, Texas — Nov. 20, 2022 — Houston Physicians’ Hospital, a leading surgical specialty hospital in Webster, Texas, announced that it has performed its 100th magnetic resonance-guided (MR-guided) spectroscopy focused ultrasound procedure, a noninvasive treatment, for patients suffering from essential tremor. The treatment focuses intense ultrasound energy guided by MRI in a patient’s brain and heats a small area of tissue, reducing both the frequency and severity of the tremor. The hospital was the first facility in Houston to use the technology to treat essential tremor.

“The MR-guided focused ultrasound treatment is a breakthrough procedure that takes about 90 minutes, depending on the shape and density of the patient’s skull,” said Dr. James G. Bonnen, board-certified neurosurgeon and chairman of the board at Houston Physicians’ Hospital. “When the procedure is completed, patients can experience immediate results followed by a six-month recovery stage. Most patients return home the same day, rest and resume routine tasks within a few days.”

MR-guided focused ultrasound is administered inside an MRI scanner on conscious patients, which sets it apart from traditional surgical methods. The scanner enables a doctor to accurately target a very precise portion of the brain — the ventral intermediate nucleus of the thalamus — that may be contributing to the tremors. The MR also measures the increase in brain temperature as a result of the ultrasound energy. MR and MRI are different in that the MRI pinpoints the location of a tumor on the anatomy while the MR spectroscopy show the different chemical composition between normal and abnormal brain tissue.

Dr. Bonnen added that for years essential tremor had only been treated through invasive surgical methods, but the MR-guided focused ultrasound treatment doesn’t require incisions or anesthesia. The technology makes use of ultrasound energy, which is non-ionizing energy that can easily pass through the body, and patients are not exposed to harmful radiation.

Essential tremor is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary shaking that usually affects the hands more than other parts of the body and can affect balance. The tremor is solitary in nature because they are not caused by other conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or trauma to the brain.

There are about 200,000 newly diagnosed essential tremor patients annually in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic. The condition affects more than 10 million Americans and is about eight times more common than Parkinson’s. While the cause of essential tremor is not clear, altered genes and age (people over 40) are known risk factors.

About Houston Physicians’ Hospital

As one of the leading surgical specialty hospitals in Texas, Houston Physicians’ Hospital provides excellent patient care for patients suffering from back and neck pain, sports injuries, chronic pain, essential tremor, joint issues and heart ailments. The hospital caters to more than 200 physicians, who provide care through 17 specialty areas, including the Spine Solutions Center, the Joint Solutions Center, the Sports Medicine Program and general surgery. It also provides imaging services and physical therapy in 15 offices located throughout the Houston area and serves patients in Houston, Galveston, Clear Lake, League City and Webster.