Skip to main content

5th International Symposium on Focused Ultrasound

North Bethesda, MD, USA. 28 August- 1 September 2016

A1 Treatment of essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease tremor by MRI guided Focused Ultrasound: a report of 38 consecutive cases in a single center

Menashe Zaaroor, Alon Sinai, Dorit Goldsher, Ayelet Eran, Maria Nassar, Ilana Schlesinger

Rambam Health Care Campus, Haifa, Israel


Thalamotomy of the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) is effective in alleviating medication resistant tremor in patients with essential tremor (ET) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). MRI guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) is an innovative technology that enables non-invasive thalamotomy via thermal ablation.


Thirty eight ET and PD patients with severe medication resistant tremor underwent MRgFUS underwent unilateral VIM thalamotomy using MRgFUS. Effect was evaluated using clinical Rating Scale of Tremor (CRST) in ET patients and Unified PD Rating Scale motor part (UPDRS) in PD patients. Quality of life was assessed by Quality of life in ET Questionnaire (QUEST) and PD Questionaire (PDQ-39).


Tremor stopped in the treated hand in 37 patients immediately following the treatment. In one patients tremor was modified but not abolished. At one month post-treatment, the ET patients’ CRST score decreased from 38.6 ± 12.0 to 9.3 ± 7.7 (p < 0.001) and QUEST scores decreased from 44.8 ± 17.8 to 13.1 ± 15.9 (p < 0.001). In PD patients UPDRS-motor part decreased from 26.2 ± 8.7 to 16.3 ± 11.0 (p = 0.0087) and PDQ39 decreased from 40.8 ± 18.2 to 26.5 ± 15.1 (p = 0.027). During follow up of 1-24 months (mean 10.9 ± 8.1 months) tremor reappeared in seven of the patients, but in all but three, to a lesser degree than before the procedure.

Adverse events that transiently occurred during sonication included: Headache (n = 11), short lasting vertigo (n = 17) and dizziness (n = 4), nausea (n = 4), burning scalp sensation (n = 3), vomiting (n = 3) and lip paresthesia (n = 2). Adverse events that lasted after the procedure included gait ataxia (n = 5), unsteady feeling when walking (n = 4,) unilateral taste disturbances (n = 3) and hand ataxia (n = 3). All adverse events were transient and none lasted beyond 3 months.


MRgFUS VIM thalamotomy to relieve medication resistant tremor was safe and effective in ET, and PD. Current results emphasize its low adverse events profile and high efficacy in treating tremor. Large randomized studies are needed to assess prolonged efficacy and safety.

A2 Focused Ultrasound likely dominates deep brain stimulation and stereotactic radiosurgery for medically-refractory essential tremor: an initial decision and cost-effectiveness analysis

Jonathon Parker1, Vinod Ravikumar1, Pejman Ghanouni1, Sherman Stein2, Casey Halpern1

1Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA; 2University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


Essential Tremor (ET) is one of the most common neurologic conditions, and conservative measures are frequently suboptimal. Recent data from a multi-institution, randomized controlled clinical trial demonstrated that Magnetic Resonance-guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) thalamotomy improves upper limb tremor in medically refractory ET. This study assesses the cost-effectiveness of this novel therapy in comparison to existing procedural options.


PubMed and Cochrane Library searches were performed for studies of MRgFUS, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), and Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) for ET. Pre- and post-operative tremor-related disability scores were collected from 32 studies involving 83 MRgFUS, 615 DBS, and 260 SRS cases. Utility (defined as percent change in functional disability) was calculated, and Medicare reimbursements were collected as a proxy for societal cost – costs of MRgFUS for ET were derived from a combination of available costs of approved indications and SRS costs where appropriate. A decision and cost-effectiveness analysis was then constructed, implementing meta-analytic techniques.


MRgFUS thalamotomy resulted in significantly higher utility scores compared with DBS and SRS based on estimates of Medicare reimbursement (p < 0.001). MRgFUS was also the most inexpensive procedure out of the three (p < 0.001).


Preliminary experience with MRgFUS for ET suggests that this novel therapeutic may be more effective than available alternatives and potentially less costly for society. It thus will likely “dominate” DBS and SRS as a more cost-effective option for medically refractory ET. Our findings support further investigation of MRgFUS for ET and broad adoption.

A3 Tractography-based VIM identification for Focused Ultrasound thalamotomy: initial results

Vibhor Krishna, Amelia Hargrove, Punit Agrawal, Barbara Changizi, Eric Bourekas, Michael Knopp, Ali Rezai

The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA


The ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) is not visible on conventional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). A novel method for tractography-based VIM identification has recently been described. We report the short-term clinical results of prospective VIM targeting with tractography in a cohort of patients undergoing Focused Ultrasound thalamotomy.


All patients underwent structural and diffusion weighted imaging (60 diffusion directions, 2 mm isovoxel) with 3 Tesla MRI scanner (Philips Ingenia CX). The images were processed using streamline tractography (Stealth Viz, Medtronic Inc.). The lateral and posterior borders of VIM were defined by tracking the pyramidal tract and medial lemniscus respectively. A VIM region of interest (ROI) was placed 3 mm away from these borders (Figs. 1, 2 and 3). The structural connectivity of this VIM ROI was confirmed to the motor cortex (M1) and cerebellum. The coordinates of tractography-based VIM in relation to posterior commissure were noted for surgical targeting. The parameters analyzed include a clinical tremor scale (pre-, intraoperative, and post operative), operative time, and number of sonications.


Tractography-based VIM targeting was successful in 7 out of 8 patients. The coordinates of tractography-based VIM were significantly different from the standard coordinates (3-D distance 3.9 ± 2.4 mm). Therapeutic sonication (>55 °C temperature, 10 seconds) at the tractography target resulted in >50 % tremor improvement with intraoperative objective tremor assessment without any motor or sensory side-effects. The mean operative time was 78 ± 3.3 minutes with 12.8 ± 3.9 average sonications. Overall the tremor scores significantly improved one month after surgery (preop CRST total 62.1 ± 15.5 versus 30.3 ± 14.1, two tailed t-test p = 0.006). None of the patients experienced sensory deficits or motor weakness during follow-up.


We report that prospective tractography-based VIM targeting is safe and feasible. The short-term clinical results are satisfactory. Long-term tremor efficacy outcomes are desirable to further assess the usefulness of this technique.

Fig. 1 (abstract A3).

Axial T1 projection showing the relation of VIM target 3 mm medial and anterior to pyramidal tract and medial lemniscus respectively

Fig. 2 (abstract A3).

Postoperative sagittal T1 projection demonstrating the relationship between pyramidal tract and medial lemniscus in relation to thalamotomy lesion

Fig. 3 (abstract A3).

Postoperative axial T1 projection demonstrating the relationship between pyramidal tract and medial lemniscus in relation to thalamotomy lesion

A4 Targeted delivery of brain-penetrating non-viral GDNF gene vectors to the striatum with MRI-guided Focused Ultrasound reverses neurodegeneration in a Parkinson’s disease model

Brian Mead1, Namho Kim2, Panagiotis Mastorakos2, Jung Soo Suk2, Wilson Miller1, Alexander Klibanov1, Justin Hanes2, Richard Price1

1University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; 2Center for Nanomedicine/Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the motor control pathways of the brain. Gene therapy using glial cell derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) has shown some limited promise for treating PD; however, we hypothesize that outcomes could be further improved by enhancing gene vector distribution. We previously developed a gene therapy approach that entails delivering systemically administered non-viral gene-bearing nanoparticles (BPN) across the Blood-Brain Barrier with MRI-guided Focused Ultrasound (FUS). BPN rapidly penetrate brain tissue due to a dense coat of polyethylene glycol, and this approach mediates efficient and localized transgene expression in the brain of healthy rats. Here, we tested whether the FUS-mediated delivery of GDNF plasmid-bearing BPN (GDNF-BPN) reverses neurodegeneration in the rat 6-OHDA PD model.


6-OHDA rats were ultrasonically coupled to a 1.15 MHz MRI-compatible FUS transducer. T2 and T2* pre-treatment scans were obtained to allow FUS targeting of striatum. Microbubbles (2x105/g) and 100 μg of ~50 nm non-viral GDNF plasmid-bearing BPN (polyethylene glycol/polyethylenimine) were co-injected i.v. and FUS was applied at 0.6 MPa, with a 0.5 % duty cycle, for 2 min. Contrast T1 and T2* images allowed semi-real time confirmation of BBB disruption and safety, respectively. Efficacy was assessed using an ELISA for GDNF, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and VMAT2 immunolabeling for neural degeneration, HPLC for dopamine, and behavioral analysis (i.e. apomorphine-induced rotational asymmetry and forepaw use bias in 6-OHDA rats).


Striatum-targeted delivery of GDNF plasmid-bearing BPN with FUS led to an ~80 % reduction in apomorphine-induced rotational asymmetry, eliminated forepaw use bias (Fig. 4a,b), and fully restored TH+ dopaminergic neuron density in both the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) and striatum compared to untreated 6-OHDA rats (Fig. 4c,d). T2* MRI confirmed safety of the BBB opening approach.


FUS-mediated delivery of systemically circulating non-viral GDNF-BPN to the striatum of 6-OHDA rats confers a significant behavioral benefit as well as a restoration of TH+ cell number in the nigrostriatal pathway, indicating cessation and/or reversal of neurodegeneration. Our studies indicate that delivery of GDNF-BPN with FUS may provide a powerful, non-invasive and highly tailorable gene therapy approach to slow or stop the neurodegenerative process in PD.

Fig. 4 (abstract A4).