Health Headlines: Expanding ultrasound treatments for Parkinson’s

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Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 8:34 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Medications are usually used to treat the symptoms of the nearly one million Americans living with Parkinson’s disease. While deep brain stimulation can help control the tremors, doctors are researching if they can expand the way they use focused ultrasound to target parts of the brain that are causing problems.

For the first time in years, Mark Witman’s hands are steady. His Parkinson’s symptoms started 13 years ago.

“I was just favoring my one side and dragging my foot,” Witman recalls.

Medication controlled it at first, but eventually, for this lifetime Orioles fan, Parkinson’s put a damper on a 20-year-long tradition. Every year on opening day after the game, Witman and his family would watch the movie “Field of Dreams.”

“If you’re familiar with the movie, at the end, father and son have a catch. It’s been getting tougher and tougher for me to throw and catch,” Witman explains.

So, Witman went to see professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Paul Fishman, PhD, who recommended a non-invasive procedure called focused ultrasound. During the procedure, Doctors use MRI guidance to send ultrasonic sound waves through the skull.

Professor Fishman says, “When that sound energy hits brain, it’s converted into heat, eliminating the tiny tissue that’s causing the problem.”

Focused ultrasound is FDA-approved for one side of the brain, but Witman was part of a clinical trial performing the procedure on both sides.

“This particular research study demands that people do well for a six-month period before it’s a go-to do the second side,” Professor Fishman continues.

Witman had the first ultrasound procedure in January and followed with the other side six months later.

“You could feel it immediately,” Witman exclaims.

For Witman, this year’s tradition was better than years past.

“We had our catch and, right away, I knew, I could throw.”

The clinical trial is being conducted at the University of Maryland, Cornell Medical School in New York, and two universities in California.