Focused Ultrasound: What to Expect

Questions? Contact Us

If medications fail to relieve the symptoms of your movement disorder, you may have other options. Focused ultrasound is an innovative treatment that combines advanced imaging technology and high-energy sound waves to bring lasting relief.

Focused ultrasound for essential tremor has been researched through clinical trials at UVA since 2011.

About Focused Ultrasound

Here are some important things to know about focused ultrasound:

  • Essential tremor is currently the only neurological condition that we will treat with focused ultrasound. We're investigating if this procedure can help patients with other conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. 
  • You may not be eligible for focused ultrasound if you have a pacemaker, kidney disease or can’t have an MRI. However, our team can help you find an alternative treatment, including deep brain stimulation.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved focused ultrasound for essential tremor in July 2016. This treatment is not currently covered by insurance. We're working with insurance companies to cover this procedure in the future. 
  • Focused ultrasound is available for other medical conditions, including uterine fibroids and to stop the spread of certain cancers (bone metastases). Learn more about focused ultrasound for uterine fibroids

The Focused Ultrasound Procedure

One focused ultrasound treatment is usually all it takes to significantly reduce tremors and help you return to everyday activities.  

What to expect:

  1. You lie on a table and we secure your head in a helmet-like device, called a transducer.
  2. The table rolls you into the MRI machine, which is a large hollow tube. If you're afraid of confined spaces, we can give you medication to help you relax. 
  3. The MRI scanner produces high-resolution images of your brain, which helps us pinpoint the area responsible for the tremor, called the thalamus.
  4. The transducer delivers over 1,000 beams of sound waves to the thalamus. Individual beams pass through the skull without any disruption. Where the beams intersect, they create heat (thermal ablation) that destroys the surrounding tissue.
  5. We monitor the location and intensity of your treatment. We may also ask you to perform simple tasks, such as moving your hands or fingers, during treatment. These safety checks help us ensure the success of your treatment.
  6. The effects of the procedure are immediate. You can expect to get up and move about right after your procedure.
  7. You may be able to go home the same day, or you may need to spend one night in the hospital.