YOUR HEALTH: Focused Ultrasound to treat Parkinson’s; A home run for Mark

One million Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease.
Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 4:44 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 16, 2023 at 6:21 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – One million Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease. Medications can help with the symptoms, and for some patients, deep brain stimulation, or DBS, works to control the tremors. Now, doctors are using focused ultrasound to target the area of the brain causing the problems. The challenge doctors are facing is that they have only been able to perform the procedure on one side of the brain, meaning the patient would only have improvement on one side, until now.

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.

Witman went to see professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Paul Fishman, PhD. Professor Fishman recommended a non-invasive procedure called focused ultrasound. Doctors use MRI guidance to send ultrasonic soundwaves 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,” Witman tells Ivanhoe.

The bilateral focused ultrasound procedure has been done successfully on patients in Switzerland and Japan. The trial is being conducted at four sites in the United States — at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in New York at Weill Cornell Medical School and New York University - Langone, and Stanford in California.

Click here to report a typo.