Focused Ultrasound Therapy
Focused ultrasound is a rapidly evolving, noninvasive, therapeutic technology with the potential to improve the quality of life and decrease the cost of care for patients with epilepsy. This novel technology focuses beams of ultrasound energy precisely and accurately on targets deep in the brain without damaging surrounding normal tissue.
How it Works
Where the beams converge, focused ultrasound produces two therapeutic effects that are being evaluated. One mechanism is thermal ablation, which heats and destroys the targeted tissue. Another is the use of neuromodulation, where focused ultrasound is able to lower the impact of epileptic impulses.
Current treatments for epilepsy include medication, surgery, radiofrequency or laser ablation, deep brain stimulation, and stereotactic radiosurgery, all of which have limitations and side effects.
Focused ultrasound has the potential to provide an alternative or complement to conventional therapy, with several advantages.
- Focused ultrasound is non-invasive, so it does not carry added concerns like surgical wound healing or infection.
- It can reach the desired target without damaging surrounding tissue.
- Focused ultrasound does not use any ionizing radiation.
- It can be repeated, if necessary.
A current clinical trial is underway at the University of Virginia, Stanford University, the University of Kansas, and the Mayo Clinic. This study is treating patients with medication-refractory, focal epilepsy.
Another clinical trial at the Brigham and Women’s University is enrolling patients with drug resistant temporal lobe epilepsy.
A clinical trial that began at The Ohio State University is transitioning to its new home at University of North Carolina and will resume recruitment soon. It is designed to prevent the secondary generalization from focal onset epilepsy.
Preclinical Laboratory Studies
Preclinical studies are underway to investigate the use of various mechanisms of focused ultrasound in the treatment of epilepsy. Examples of these studies include:
- Focused ultrasound to temporarily disrupt the BBB and deliver promising drug therapies, including the dosing and timing (e.g. frequency) of drug administration.
- Focused ultrasound to induce neuromodulation, to stimulate or block signals in a specific area of the brain that are causing symptoms such as seizure.
Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement
Focused ultrasound is not approved by any regulatory bodies worldwide as a treatment for epilepsy, nor is the treatment reimbursed by medical insurance providers.
Suggested Reading: Focused Ultrasound for Epilepsy (PDF), June 2020.
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