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FDA Approves New Treatment for Essential Tremor

Tuesday, July 12, 2016  
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first focused ultrasound device to treat essential tremor in patients who have not responded to medication. INSIGHTEC’s Exablate Neuro uses magnetic resonance (MR) images taken during the procedure to deliver focused ultrasound to destroy brain tissue in a tiny area thought to be responsible for causing tremors.

The patient experiences immediate tremor improvement following the outpatient procedure. The treatment carries minimal risk of infection, bleeding or other surgical complications. The treatment requires a single session with no anesthesia, allowing patients to quickly return to normal activity.

Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder, affecting more than 5 million people in the United States, and millions more worldwide. Hand tremor is the most common symptom, but tremors can also affect the head, arms, voice, legs, and torso. For these patients, performing everyday tasks presents a challenge and impacts their quality of life.

This approval by the FDA was based on clinical data from a randomized, double-blind, multi-center clinical study designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of non-invasive thalamotomy with MRgFUS. A total of 76 patients were enrolled in the study and randomly assigned to receive the Exablate treatment (56 patients) or the sham procedure (20 patients), the exact same procedure but without any ultrasound energy. Patients in the placebo treatment arm were later allowed to undergo an Exablate Neuro treatment. Patients treated with the Exablate Neuro showed nearly a 50% improvement in their tremors and motor function three months after treatment compared to their baseline score. Patients in the control group had no improvement, and some experienced a slight worsening after the sham procedure before they crossed over into the treatment group. A year following the procedure, the patients who underwent the Exablate Neuro procedure retained a 40% improvement in these scores compared to baseline.

“Results of this study show that Exablate Neuro is safe and effective for treating essential tremor. Finding the most effective way to manage tremor symptoms is crucial for patients. The patients we have treated show immediate tremor control, allowing them to regain ability to perform daily tasks such as eating and writing,” commented Dr. W. Jeffrey Elias, Director of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery at the University of Virginia and Principal Investigator in the study.

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