Ultrasound technology used for first time to treat uncontrollable tremors

A deep brain ultrasound treatment to help people with uncontrollable tremors has been made available in Scotland for the first time.

More than £2 million has been raised by the University of Dundee to purchase the Magnetic Resonance-guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) technology.

It uses sound waves to help destroy tissue that can prompt unwanted movements in people who experience the neurological condition “essential tremor”, giving them a better quality of life.

Ian Sharp, from Dufftown in Moray, is one of the first people in Scotland to be treated by the technology at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

Ian Sharp
Keen fisherman Ian Sharp is one of the first people in Scotland to be treated with the technology (University of Dundee/PA)

After first experiencing vibrations in his hands in his early 30s, he was eventually diagnosed with essential tremor more than a decade later.

The 66-year-old said: “I feel incredibly lucky. I know this treatment could potentially change my life.

“I’ve always been a keen fisherman but it became increasingly hard to tie the flies to the point I can no longer do them for myself.

“My wife and I also run a bed and breakfast, but I can no longer serve our guests because of my tremor. I have had to learn to integrate my tremor into my life.

“I have tried not to let it affect me too much, but the thought of being totally independent, without having to use any aids to do things like cook, is just incredible.”

Essential tremor is caused by faulty circuits in the thalamus, a small area of the brain, which prompt involuntary movements in the hands and arms.

The new, non-invasive procedure only takes a few hours and can help restore control of movement to someone’s hands – even if they have not experienced the issue for decades.

As well as being effective against essential tremor, initial research suggests the treatment may also have a role in tackling the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

The University of Dundee will use the technology to support clinical research trials for Parkinson’s sufferers.

Tom Gilbertson
Dr Tom Gilbertson said the treatment can have a ‘transformative effect’ for patients (University of Dundee/PA)

Dr Tom Gilbertson, consultant neurologist and honorary senior lecturer at Dundee’s School of Medicine, said: “This treatment can have a transformative effect on a person’s quality of life.

“It is fantastic to be able to offer this treatment to patients in Scotland.

“This is a huge achievement and I have to express my gratitude to the fundraisers who have helped to make this happen.

“We are bringing a standard of care to Scotland that is comparable with the best available anywhere in the world.

“Any previous treatment would have required an invasive procedure, something that not all patients are fit enough to undertake.

“This is a significant change and a healthcare revolution for Scottish patients.”