VIDEO: Cutting edge brain surgery a game-changer for Vernon man
Charlotte Helston - Reporter
Zelma Kiss, University of Calgary neurosurgeon and professor, right, with patient Elias Pharaon.
Image Credit: Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
December 08, 2017 - 2:50 PM
VERNON - An 85-year-old Vernon man can once again eat, dress himself and sign his name without his hand shaking thanks to a new way of performing brain surgery.
Elias Pharaon suffers from a movement disorder called essential tremor, something that has made simple tasks like writing his name impossible for the past five years, the University of Calgary says in a media release about the surgery.
Pharaon volunteered to undergo a revolutionary new procedure at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, where a team of University of Calgary physicians and researchers with the Hotchkiss Brain Institute performed magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound on him. It’s a new technology that allows surgeons to access the brain without cutting the skin or drilling into the skull.
“We are able to see the brain with real-time imaging and target a beam of high intensity ultrasound to the brain region responsible for tremor,” Dr. Zelma Kiss, a neurosurgeon and professor at the Cumming School of Medicine says. “The patient is awake the whole time and the results are immediate.”
Essential tremor occurs because different parts of the brain are not talking to each other properly, and the abnormal network function causes the tremor to appear, Dr. Davide Martino, a movement disorder specialist and associate professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences explains. Pharaon had previously tried medication for his tremors, but it didn’t work. Where the medicine failed, the surgery worked.
“I couldn’t believe the tremor in my right hand was gone. I didn’t feel anything during the procedure,” Pharaon says. “I was so happy. It’s changed my life. I feel like I can go out in public again.”
Bruce Pike, professor of Radiology and Clinical Neurosciences, says this is just the beginning of a much larger research platform.
“The idea of neurosurgery in an awake patient without breaking the skin is revolutionary. With the use of this technology we are looking at different treatment options for a number of devastating brain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, epilepsy and brain tumours,” Pike says.
The research study is being done in collaboration with Alberta Health Services and with funding from Canada Foundation for Innovation, and private donors, including significant donations from the Rob McAlpine Legacy Initiative and the Cumming Medical Research Fund. At this point, only patients with severe medication resistant essential tremor are being treated with the procedure.
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