PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A patient in Philadelphia is one of the first to try a new high-tech treatment for a tremor disorder that strikes millions and it has the potential to help many more, perhaps even those with Parkinson’s disease.
The simple task of drinking water was an ordeal for Jim Neyhart. He has a common movement disorder called essential tremor that causes his hand to shake uncontrollably.
“You can’t do a lot of things you want to do,” Neyhart said.
The tremor started about 10 years ago. It’s not known what causes it.
For Neyhart, it’s especially debilitating because his other hand is prosthetic. He lost his hand in Vietnam, when he was gravely wounded by mortar fire.
“I’m very limited,” Neyhart said. “I’ve learned to work around limitation my whole life but this one really slows you down quite a bit.”
Hoping to get his life back, the Delaware grandfather turned to Penn Medicine for treatment with a new noninvasive technology.
“I think it’s magic; I think it is absolutely fabulous,” said Dr. Gordon Baltuch of Penn Medicine.
Dr. Baltuch is using high frequency ultrasound to zap the part of the brain that causes tremors.
“You’re creating a thermal lesion, which is irreversible however, it has huge promise,” he said.
To make sure it’s hitting the right spot with the correct dose, Neyhart’s writing and movement ability is monitored as the treatment progresses.
“You have to be careful with it, because there’s no eraser on the pencil,” Dr. Baltuch explained.
Right after the treatment that Neyhart says is not painful, he’s put through a series of tests and he’s able to use his hand without shaking.
And a week later, he’s back for a check up.
And now for the first time in a decade, Neyhart is able to write three important words for his wife: “I Love You.”
He’s still getting accustomed to using his hand again but the tremor is gone.
So, he can go back to enjoying soup, signing his name and fishing his other love.
Neyhart chose the new therapy instead of surgery after the drugs stopped working. His tremor is now expected to be gone for good.