Doctors in London Use Sound Waves in Brain Operation

Doctors in London have utilised sound waves to successfully within the brain of a patient.

Selwyn Lucas, 52, was suffering from uncontrollable tremors in his right hand, but the innovative surgery has now solved this problem.

A team of experts at St Mary’s hospital used MRI guided focused ultrasound to destroy the tissue causing mistimed electrical signals.

Dr Peter Bain, consultant neurologist with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and intimately involved in this new technique, believes that it could have multiple applications within the healthcare system.

Prof Wladyslaw Gedroyc, consultant radiologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, was similarly positive about this breakthrough.

“This is a game changer for patients with these movement disorders because we can cure them with a treatment which is completely non-invasive and we don’t have to give unpleasant drugs.”

This research is particularly valuable, as around one-million people in the UK suffer from uncontrollable shaking of the hands, head or body.

The neurological condition is frequently caused by faulty circuits in the thalamus.

Usual treatment is via drugs, with brain surgery utilised in extreme cases, but side-effects can be prevalent with both treatments.

Commenting on the case, the aforementioned Gedroyc explained that “one simple way to imagine this is to think of how a magnifying glass can be used to focus the sun’s rays on a single point and burn a hole”.

Procedures using this technique currently last around five hours, involving more than a dozen “sonications”.

Neurologist, Dr Bain, involved in the treatment of Lucas indicated that there is minimal margin for error with the technique.

“It’s like asking the RAF to blow up 10 Downing Street but leave 11 Downing Street in perfect shape – we have to be very careful because parts of the brain with vital functions are just nearby”.

But the treatment of Lucas was completely successful, bringing hope to millions all over the world.

Bain stated that deep brain stimulation, which involves drilling through the skull and implanting an electrode in the thalamus, carried a one-in-100 risk of stroke and one-in-1,000 risk of death.

“The balance of gain to risk is hugely altered by this treatment, and the patient can go home the same day. We could also potentially use it for activating chemicals inside the body which remain inert until you focus sound waves on them, and this could be invaluable in treating brain tumours”.

These pioneering doctors now hope the procedure will be approved for wider utilisation in the NHS.


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