Focused Ultrasound Therapy
Focused ultrasound is an early-stage, non-invasive, 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 to invasive surgery or to replace or augment radiosurgery for treatment of epilepsy. There are no incisions, no ionizing radiation, and no damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Focused ultrasound is noninvasive, requiring no incisions, holes in the skull, nore electrodes in the brain, and therefore has reduced risk for infection, blood clots, and mechanical tissue damage. Focused ultrasound may also be able to enhance delivery of drug therapies to the brain via temporary opening of the blood-brain barrier, reducing toxicity and side-effects.
A clinical trial at Taipei Veteran’s General Hospital is using neuro-navigation to treat patients with refractory epilepsy has been completed.
A current clinical trial is underway at the University of Virginia, Stanford University, and the Mayo Clinic 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.
The Ohio State University has a current clinical trial for patients to prevent the secondary generalization from focal onset epilepsy.
A current clinical trial is underway at the University of California Los Angeles for medication-refractory epilepsy in patients with subcortical lesions.
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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