17 May A burning answer – StarTribune.com
Steroid injections, nerve stimulators and spinal fusions were no match for the chronic pain in Tammy Durfee’s left side — never mind the “searing-hot poker” sensation that would jab her leg without warning. After a decade searching for relief, a four-hour procedure in Baltimore put her pain to rest.
Durfee was the first U.S. patient to be treated for neuropathic pain using focused ultrasound in a medical trial being conducted by University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers. Just as a magnifying glass can concentrate sunlight to burn holes in leaves, focused ultrasound concentrates sound waves to singe a small area of the brain, preventing neurons from overreacting and triggering pain.
Durfee’s treatment is part of a broader trial in which researchers are studying the use of focused ultrasound on neurological conditions including essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. Proponents of focused ultrasound are hopeful the noninvasive therapy could in coming years become a mainstream treatment for dozens of conditions ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.
Ultrasound is a technique that sends sound waves through the body, often to create medical images. Focused ultrasound pinpoints the sound waves to a specific area to burn tissue.
The technique looks to be a promising treatment for neuropathic pain, a fairly common condition that is notoriously difficult to treat. The sensation is caused by damage to nerves, the spinal cord or neurons in the thalamus, the part of the brain that relays information from the body’s…