By UCF Lake Nona Medical Center | June 9, 2021 5:08 pm

UCF Lake Nona Medical Center announced today it is the first hospital in Central Florida to provide incisionless brain surgery to treat essential tremor and tremor-dominant Parkinson’s disease unable to be controlled with medication.

Essential tremor (ET) is a progressive, neurological disease characterized by tremor, most often of the hands or arms, which can make daily activities challenging. Nearly 10 million Americans are estimated to have ET, which is 10 times the number of people living with Parkinson’s disease. Tremors are the primary symptom that has the most severe impact on the daily activities of Parkinson’s patients, with about 10 percent of patients experiencing them.

Using focused ultrasound guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the innovative, scalpel-free therapy directs targeted sound wave energy deep into the brain, treating the tissue that causes a tremor. No surgical incision or anesthesia are required, and many patients experience immediate improvement with minimal complications reported.

“For patients who qualify, MRI-guided focused ultrasound provides an incisionless treatment option, performed on an outpatient basis with short recovery time and often immediate results,” said Dr. Nizam Razack, MD, JD, FAANS, FACS, neurosurgeon at UCF Lake Nona Medical Center. “Not only are we the first hospital in Central Florida to offer focused ultrasound for essential tremor, we’re also one of the very few centers nationally capable of providing the procedure. By expanding access to this treatment here in our region, we can help restore independence and provide relief for individuals suffering from debilitating and progressive tremors.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this procedure in 2016 as an alternative to deep brain stimulation (DBS), a more invasive form of treatment. MRI-guided focused ultrasound benefits include:

  • Substantial and nearly instant reduction in hand tremors
  • Reduced risk of infection, as the outpatient procedure is incisionless
  • Quicker recovery time with patients returning to daily activities within days

“When we opened UCF Lake Nona Medical Center in March, we made a commitment to the residents of Lake Nona and surrounding communities to not only increase access to excellent, patient-centered care in the region, but also to bring innovative technology, treatments and tools to Greater Orlando,” said Wendy Brandon, CEO of UCF Lake Nona Medical Center. “The launch of our incisionless brain surgery program demonstrates that commitment. We are proud to bring this revolutionary procedure to Central Florida and look forward to the tremendous impact it will have on improving the lives of our patients.”

Learn more about UCF Lake Nona Medical Center’s neurological services 

Jen Stratton’s Journey with Essential Tremor – “I just want my outside to match my inside.”

At six years old, Jen Stratton was diagnosed with essential tremor. The condition, a neurological disorder causing involuntary and rhythmic shaking throughout the body, has been a difficult hurdle throughout Stratton’s life. Jen, now a successful businesswoman and mother of two daughters, had to fight through the challenges of essential tremor for years and it has affected everything, from dating to parenting to finding success in the financial industry.

While Stratton has made accommodations for the tremor, it has presented many unique struggles for her throughout her personal and professional journey. She couldn’t cut her daughters’ nails when the girls were growing up, and while she can cook and do her makeup, she calls her hands “a bit of a guessing game,” as to how cooperative they’ll be. Even a relaxing evening out at a nice restaurant can be mentally exhausting as Jen tries her best to keep her knife and fork from rattling against her plate.

“Where I struggle most with my tremor is with the perception others have of me in social situations,” Stratton said. “My body reacts to a little bit of nervousness with a lot more tremor than I have when I’m resting, so I can be perceived as not being able to handle a normal interaction with other people. I just want my outside to match my inside.”

On her worst days, which are caused by extra stimulus or loud noises, nervousness or tiredness, Stratton is unable to type on her computer or insert her house key into the lock. At those times, she calls her tremor debilitating.

In her career as a chief financial officer, Stratton says she is often the only woman in the room, which itself can be difficult. She says the tremor often makes people think she is having a panic attack or crying in the middle of a meeting. “In certain situations, it can seem like I am in distress, so people worry and are more concerned about my emotional state than listening to what I have to say,” she explained.

While there are medications that can treat essential tremor, Stratton has never found success with them.

“All of them had side effects that just were not acceptable for my life,” she said. “They either affected my mind or my body to the extent that I couldn’t handle them. Some surgeries have been suggested to me, but I’ve decided against those options. I felt it wasn’t worth it to have a surgery that could have worse side effects or risks than the tremor.”

Stratton reconsidered when she heard about Incisionless Brain Surgery, now available at UCF Lake Nona Medical Center. Using focused ultrasound guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the innovative, scalpel-free therapy directs targeted sound wave energy deep into the brain, treating the tissue that causes a tremor. No surgical incision or anesthesia is required; approval at this time is for treatment of one side of the brain only.

Ahead of the procedure, Stratton said she was “so excited to watch the tremor turn off, so I can go about my life and not cast a false perception about myself.”

“I want to do normal things without having to make accommodations, like meeting someone, shaking their hand and giving them a glass of water without it being noticeable that I’m having a severe tremor,” she said. “I’m anxious to paint my own nails and cook and use a knife much faster. Even more, I’m looking forward to getting older and not having the fear that this tremor is going to become much worse than it is now. I can’t wait for the outside to match the inside, and for everyone to see how confident I really am.”

Up before the sun on the day that would change her life, Jen arrived at UCF Lake Nona Medical Center filled with excitement to prepare for her procedure, which included taking a pre-procedure writing assessment and having her head shaved. After a few hours in the MRI suite, Jen was completely free of the tremor that had afflicted her for so many years. All smiles, Jen was wheeled into the room to greet her family and the hospital staff, exclaiming, “I’m so happy you guys. You can’t imagine!”

This was truly a mission moment caring for our patient and an amazing experience to see innovation in action at the hospital of the future, UCF Lake Nona Medical Center. Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.

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