Essential tremor is a chronic neurological disorder that causes a person’s hands, arms and sometimes head, to shake uncontrollably, and there is no cure. There are medications that can help, but they don’t work effectively for many patients. But a new FDA approved procedure may offer relief to some patients.

“I was getting frustrated and quite depressed,” said Katina Ansen.

She’s a painter and said tremors used to affect her work which requires a lot of precision, and also her everyday activities.

“When I went to go flip a hamburger or a pancake, it would go flying across the room,” Katina shared.

Her persistent tremors led her to neurosurgeon Michael Kaplitt MD, PhD Professor of Neurological Surgery at Weill Cornell medical college in New York. Dr. Kaplitt was among the first in the country to use a new technique to treat essential tremor.

“We are using ultrasound beams to actually non-invasively change the way the brain functions to improve disease,” said Dr. Kaplitt.

In the FDA approved procedure, neurosurgeons use MRI guidance to target a very precise area of the brain. Then surgeons administer a focused ultrasound beam.   

“It’s very similar to when you were a kid and you would use a magnifying glass to focus light beams on a leaf or a piece of paper,” Dr. Kaplitt explained.
Katina needed very little recovery time after surgery. She credits the procedure with giving her her life back.

“I call myself the 2.0 Katina now, because I was updated,” she said.

Dr. Kaplitt said in a clinical trial, three months after the ultrasound procedure patients showed a nearly 50 percent improvement in tremors and motor function, and most kept that improvement over a one-year period.