Focused Ultrasound Treatment for Parkinson's:
Motor improvement over three years

A contribution by Jürgen Zender


 In recent years, research has increasingly been looking for new treatment options Quality of life of patients. A promising study published by Prof. Dr. Dr. hc Günther Deuschl in the journal “InFo Neurology + Psychiatry” deals with the unilateral ablation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided focused ultrasound treatment (MRgFUS).

But what does that mean exactly? The researchers used an innovative method called MRgFUS, in which they use highly concentrated ultrasound waves to target specific areas of the brain. The patients are restrained in a helmet-shaped device and the treatment is carried out under constant monitoring using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This allows the subthalamic nucleus (a brain structure) to be targeted on one side of the brain. This leads to a clinical improvement in motor functions in Parkinson's patients, who experience a significant improvement on the treated side.

The interesting study followed the course of patients over a period of three years. The subjects had a unilateral form of Parkinson's disease and the more affected side was treated. The results were promising: the motor condition improved by 52% compared to baseline and after three years the motor symptoms on the treated side remained stable. However, there was no significant improvement in activities of daily living, quality of life, or reduction in medication dose required. In addition, the untreated side deteriorated as the disease progressed.

Prof. Dr. dr hc Günther Deuschl, a respected scientist in the field of neurology, commented on the study results. He stressed the importance of this research as it shows that unilateral treatment of the subthalamic nucleus can produce sustained motor improvement in Parkinson's patients without introducing new safety risks. Nevertheless, he pointed out that further research is needed in larger patient groups, especially when it comes to bilateral (both sides) treatment. MRgFUS treatment is currently not approved for routine treatment and should only be carried out within the framework of controlled studies or registers.

Summary of study results:

  • Motor Improvement: 52% improved compared to baseline 
  • Quality of life: No sustained improvement 
  • Drug dose: No relevant reduction 
  • Untreated side: Worsening as the disease progresses

Overall, the study shows promising results in terms of motor improvement in Parkinson's patients through focused ultrasound treatment of the subthalamic nucleus. However, the long-term effects and other aspects of the treatment need more research before it can be used as a standard of care.

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