Medical Moment: The focused ultrasound used to treat Parkinson’s

Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 5:33 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - 1,000,000 Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease.

And for some patients, a process called deep brain stimulation works to control the tremors.

Now, doctors are using focused ultrasound to target the area of the brain causing the problems.

Mark Witman’s hands are steady since he started showing Parkinson’s symptoms over 13 years ago.

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

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...

“What we do is we watch Field of Dreams,” Witman explained. “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 went to see neurologist Paul Fishman. Dr. Fishman recommended a non-invasive procedure called focused ultrasound. Doctors use MRI guidance to send ultrasonic soundwaves through the skull.

“When that sound energy hits the brain, it’s converted into heat,” Dr. Fishman said.

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 god to do the second side,” Dr. Fishman said.

“You could feel it immediately,” Witman said.

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

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

A homerun for Witman and his family.