If you’re experiencing hand tremors caused by essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease and medication isn’t doing enough to control your symptoms, focused ultrasound may be a lifechanging treatment option for you. 

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist is the only health system in the Triad that offers focused ultrasound - an incision-free procedure that can improve tremor symptoms in just a few hours.  

You’ll be in excellent hands with our expert team, who will guide you through a personalized treatment plan to give you the best results.  

We currently perform focused ultrasound at the MRI Building in Winston-Salem.

What is Focused Ultrasound?

Focused ultrasound is an innovative, noninvasive treatment for tremor caused by essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease. Tremor is a type of involuntary shaking in your body, most often your hands.

Guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we use focused ultrasound waves to precisely target the area of your brain that controls your tremor. By carefully heating and removing these cells, we can safely reduce or stop hand tremor symptoms with a single procedure.

This procedure may also be referred to as high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), MRI-guided focused ultrasound or incisionless brain surgery. Unlike deep brain stimulation, which involves opening the skull, focused ultrasound doesn’t require any surgical incisions (cuts).   

Benefits of Focused Ultrasound

Shaking hands (hand tremors) can make it difficult to do everyday activities like eating, drinking, writing and getting dressed. Reducing your tremor can restore your quality of life and help you feel more like yourself again.

Focused ultrasound can make an enormous difference in just a few hours. Immediately after one treatment session, most patients experience a significant improvement in tremor symptoms.

Other benefits of focused ultrasound include:

  • Safety: Ultrasound waves can pass through skin, muscle, fat and bone to treat the brain without any incision or radiation exposure.
  • Precision: Advanced technology allows us to precisely target a specific area of the brain without damaging any surrounding tissue.
  • Recovery: Focused ultrasound is an outpatient procedure, meaning you can likely go home the same day. And side effects are typically minor and temporary. 
  • Outcomes: In addition to offering immediate tremor relief, studies show that more than 75% of patients continue to have improved symptoms 3 years later.

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist providers discuss focused ultrasound and what it can treat

For patients with essential tremor, one treatment is deep brain stimulation. This procedure uses an electrode to decrease or eliminate tremor. MRI-guided focused ultrasound enables doctors to locate the area without surgery. Most patients who undergo the procedure are able to leave that same day. Focused ultrasound helps doctors to accurately target the area of the brain involved with the tremor.

What to Expect from Focused Ultrasound Treatment

Focused ultrasound follows a personalized treatment plan that’s delivered in a single session, which typically lasts a few hours. Only one side of your brain can be treated at a time. Many patients choose to start with the side that their dominant hand is on.

Because ultrasound waves don’t travel through hair very well, your head will be shaved before your treatment begins.

During the procedure, you’ll be in an MRI machine wearing a special head frame to help you stay still. The MRI gives us real-time images of your brain. Throughout your treatment, you’ll be awake and communicating with your care team.

Most patients experience immediate improvement to tremor symptoms in the treated hand. You can typically go home the same day and quickly return to normal activities.

From your first consultation through your procedure and follow-up care, our team will make sure you know what to expect every step of the way. You can also find more information about the treatment process in our focused ultrasound frequently asked questions.

Is Focused Ultrasound Right for Me?

You may qualify for focused ultrasound treatment if you have a confirmed diagnosis of essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease and you have hand tremor that doesn’t respond to medications.

There are some restrictions based on factors like age and general health. And while focused ultrasound can provide life-changing relief, it may not completely stop your tremor symptoms. It also does not treat the underlying cause of disease or prevent disease progression.

If you think you may be a candidate for focused ultrasound, talk to your doctor. For more information about our focused ultrasound treatment program, contact our neurosurgery department at 336-716-4081

Quality Care at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist has the only neurology and neurosurgery program in the Triad that’s rated high performing by U.S. News & World Report. This recognition places our care in the top 10% nationwide. 

And at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Movement Disorders Center, the largest program of its kind in the Carolinas, you’re connected to an experienced team of neurologists, neurosurgeons and other movement disorder specialists. With powerhouse academic medicine and advanced treatments like focused ultrasound - which isn’t available anywhere else in the region - you can count on us to deliver top-quality care.