Dr. Sanjay Gupta & Everyday Health: Surgery Without Scalpels – The Next Big Thing?
Surgery Without Scalpels – The Next Big Thing?
Focused ultrasound could one day treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, even depression and OCD. Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports for Everyday Health.
By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
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Sanjay Gupta, MD, Everyday Health: I’m a surgeon, and this is the tool of my trade. There have been surgeons since ancient times, and all of us have had to use something like this, because to work inside the body you need to open it up. I happen to be a brain surgeon, which makes things even tougher, since the brain is completely encased in bone.
But there is an exciting new technology being tested that would allow us to fix things deep inside the body, even inside the brain, without ever breaking the skin.
Kimberly Spletter is about to undergo this experimental procedure called focused ultrasound. She has Parkinson’s Disease.
This was Kimberly before the procedure. The shaking is actually caused not by the Parkinson’s, but by the medication she must take to control it.
Kimberly Spletter: It's like a Catch-22. You have to have the medicine or you can't do anything. With the medicine you’re bouncing all over the place and you’re wiggling.
Dr. Gupta: Kimberly is an avid runner and biker. Parkinson’s was robbing her of her passions in life -- and of other things as well.
Kimberly Spletter: Probably, one of my saddest moments was when I was at a wedding. My dad came up and asked me to dance with him and I couldn’t. I couldn’t get up out of the chair.
Dr. Gupta: Parkinson’s originates deep inside the brain, and one option for fixing involves implanting electrodes at that spot, connected to a battery. It’s called deep brain stimulation and it can be very effective, as we reported in this story on a violinist, who played for his surgeons right on the operating table.
But many patients, including Kimberly, dislike the idea of permanently installing wires and electrodes inside their brains. Then she learned she was a perfect candidate for focused ultrasound.
Kimberley Spletter: I thought, I really think I need to do this. It was the answer for me.
Dr. Gupta: We think of ultrasound as a way to see an unborn baby in the womb. But in this procedure, the beams of ultrasound energy are focused on a single spot. It has the same effect as a magnifying glass focusing beams of light. Where the beams come together, they generate enough heat to destroy the small part of the brain that causes Parkinson’s.
Doctor performing procedure: OK, we’re going to sonicate again. Just keep on holding still.
Dr. Gupta: Kimberly is awake and giving feedback to the doctors during the four-hour procedure. In Part Two of our story on Kimberly… the big moment.
Doctor: OK, we’re done.
Dr. Gupta: With Everyday Health, I’m Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Be well.
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