The University of Virginia will soon begin a study that could help people with Parkinson's disease. Doctors say a bloodless, painless procedure could eliminate or reduce tremors.
UVA researchers have already used focused ultrasound to treat 15 people with essential tremor -- uncontrollable shaking that makes it hard to dress, eat a meal, write a note, or even type on a keyboard.
John Waterson was one of the first to have the procedure. Doctors used sound waves to zap pathways in his brain and stop his hand from shaking.
"They had me drawing circles and straight lines, and absolutely there was a major difference," says Waterson.
Neurologist Binit Shah followed up to make sure the treatment had a lasting effect.
"What we found at one year — and we're starting to get some people coming in two years after their procedure — is a significant reduction in the tremors' severity, but just as important, a continued benefit as time goes forward," he says.
Now, he's looking for 20 volunteers to take part in a second study, and 30 people with Parkinson's disease to see if focused ultrasound can relieve their tremors, slowness and stiffness. Even if it works, the procedure won't be widely available until the FDA certifies it as safe and effective, which could take several years.