Jeff Elias works with the Focused Ultrasound machine

Focused Ultrasound

Uncontrollable shaking from essential tremor can force you to stop doing the things you love, but it doesn’t have to.

Focused ultrasound is an incisionless procedure that targets and destroys a small patch of brain tissue responsible for essential tremor. If medications fail to relieve the symptoms of your movement disorder, you may have other options.

A Visual Guide to Focused Ultrasound

More precise. Better outcomes. Faster recovery. See how it works.

Relief From Essential Tremor

UVA is the first program in the U.S. to treat essential tremor using focused ultrasound. Just one treatment is often all it takes to get lasting relief. View transcript.

FDA Approved in 2016

UVA is working to make the procedure available to eligible patients as soon as possible. 

If you're interested in focused ultrasound for essential tremor, it's important to note:

  • Insurance plans do not currently cover this procedure.
  • Not everyone with essential tremor is eligible for focused ultrasound; eligibility requires evaluation.

We are not making appointments at this time, but we hope to have information about treatment availability soon.

What to Expect

There is a designated parking spot on the side of the building. You'll get the parking pass from the technologist when you arrive.

Wear loose fitting clothing without any metal (no zippers, studs metal fasteners, etc.). 

You'll meet with the anesthesiology team to review your medical history and medications. They also go over the medications you'll be given during the procedure. An IV catheter will be placed in the arm that is not be treated.

Your head will be shaved by one the residents and the frame will be placed. There will be some minor initial discomfort with the frame placement. Once the frame is placed, you will be encouraged to use the restroom before beginning the procedure. You'll also get to see your family members before we have them leave the building. 

A rubber membrane will be placed on your head and you will be hooked up to a monitor so that we may track your vital signs. Cold water is added to the rubber membrane and the room will be chilly, but we'll have plenty of blankets to keep you warm. We'll check on you frequently during the procedure, and we'll be able to talk to you and hear you in the MRI scanner.

Once the procedure is complete, you are removed from the MRI and the frame. You'll be fully awake and able to eat and drink. You should be able to leave the facility about an hour after the treatment is complete.

Can Loved Ones Wait in the Focused Ultrasound Building?

No, but families can wait in the main hospital lobby or the surgical waiting room. Some families choose to return to their home or hotel room, or go elsewhere in town. They'll be given an update during the procedure and notified when the procedure is ending so they may return to the facility.

    What Are the Side Effects of Focused Ultrasound?

    • Sensory disturbance: Patients sometime feel numbness or tingling in their fingertips or lips on the side of the body getting treated. The sensations tend to be very mild and temporary with very few patients describing the feelings as uncomfortable. In 10 to 15 percent of cases, the sensations may be permanent.
    • Gait disturbance or imbalance: Patients commonly feel unsteady on their feet after the procedure. Typically, this only lasts through the 1st or 2nd week after the procedure. In clinical studies, permanent unsteadiness was reported in up to 10 percent of the patients.
    • Minor side effects, such as headache, pain and dizziness: Some patients may feel warmth, pain or dizziness lasting only for a few seconds during the procedure. These effects are not felt after the procedure.
    • Major side effects, such as stroke, infection or seizures: The risk for experiencing these side effects is very low.
    Beyond Tremor

    We're researching using focused ultrasound to treat:


    Focused ultrasound is not recommended if you:

    • Have a pacemaker
    • Have kidney disease
    • Can't have an MRI
    Other Medical Conditions

    Focused ultrasound also treats:

    • Uterine fibroids
    • Fibroadenomas of the breasts
    • Certain cancers (bone metastases)