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New service/procedure spotlight: Deep Brain Stimulation and Focused Ultrasound

Published on Friday March 10, 2023

Two treatment options made possible through advanced technology are now being offered at Centra for patients experiencing tremors. Tremors are an adverse side effect experienced by individuals with Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and other movement disorders such as essential tremors. These tremors can affect the hands, voice, legs and toros and make it difficult for individuals to complete daily activities such as eating, writing and walking without assistance.

The first new procedure now being offered at Centra is called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) which is a progressive form of treatment that is performed through a two-step process. The first part of the procedure is completed by inserting a stimulation device in the patient’s chest that sends electrical impulses to a thin lead which is implanted in the patient’s skull. The lead
delivers electrical stimulation to targeted areas of the brain which results in the stabilization of the brain signals that cause the tremors.

Three to five weeks after the device is placed in the patient’s chest and the lead is implanted in the skull, the settings of the electronic stimulation device are fine tuned. This refinement allows the amount of stimulation being produced to be tweaked to produce optimal results and helps to reduce side effects that can be caused by the placement of the device. Patients who have received DBS Therapy have had remarkable results with up to an 80% reduction in tremors. This reduction leads to newfound control of their hands, voice and other body parts in addition to the gift of restored confidence. The other treatment option for tremors that is now being offered at Centra is called Focused Ultrasound (FUS). A non-invasive, outpatient option, the Focused Ultrasound treatment generates a lesion in the brain through ultrasound waves that can pass safely through the skull under MRI guidance to target a small spot in the brain considered to be responsible for the tremors.

In a clinical trial three year follow up, it was found that 76.5% of patients benefitted from tremor improvement. This meant that patients were able to experience reprieve from the tremors, return to work and once again enjoy hobbies and social activities. The most incredible part of this treatment is that as soon as the Focused Ultrasound Treatment is over, the tremors are immediately reduced or eliminated entirely.

Dr. Aaron Bond who is trained in general neurosurgery with special emphasis on the treatment of movement disorders, epilepsy and complex spinal disorders is excited to begin offering this surgery at Centra. He has completed multiple successful DBS surgeries and FUS treatments throughout his medical career and is hopeful about the positive impact that these new offerings will make on the communities that Centra serves.

These new therapies align with Centra’s organizational priority of Access & Community Impact by allowing patients to receive this life-changing therapy close to home. Prior to this year, if a patient living in central Virginia wanted to receive DBS or FUS Therapy for their movement disorder, they would have been required to travel long distances for appointments and treatment. Now, all portions of the DBS Treatment process are being offered in Lynchburg, and all portions of the FUS Treatment process except for the targeting treatment (which is performed at UVA) are offered in Lynchburg. This ultimately means the burden of travel on patients living in central Virginia has been greatly reduced by making effective treatment options available

Dr. Bond shared that what makes these treatment options so exciting is what they provide to patients. He said, “In most cases, I’m treating patients who can’t feed themselves and who don’t want to leave their homes. These therapies allow them to return to a somewhat normal life.” Additionally, the positive impact of these surgeries is often felt by patients and their families almost immediately. Dr. Bond added that it is also moving as a clinician to see, “25-30% of my patients have an emotional reaction after FUS because the results are instant. It’s moving to watch grown men cry because of the treatment’s impact.”

Meet Dr. Bond