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Procedure in Nebraska helps people suffering from tremors

Posted at 3:58 PM, Oct 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-16 19:40:36-04

NEBRASKA CITY, Neb. (KMTV) — A non-invasive procedure has proven to be successful for some people suffering from tremors.

Darwin Kruse of Council Bluffs started noticing his hands shake in his 30s. He was later diagnosed with familial essential tremor. He's now 68-years-old.

His tremors had begun to impact his life. He likes to hunt and do woodworking, hobbies that are tough when your hand is shaking uncontrollably.

"I make knives so when I'm fabricating the handle and doing some fine work, you get the shake and go oh geez, you try to ignore it," Kruse said.

He's also a deacon in the Catholic Church. He says he gets somewhat self-conscious when his hand shakes around parishioners he's praying with or when he has to write something in front of people.

He recently got in touch with Dr. Travis Tierney at CHI Health St. Mary's in Nebraska City. He says the Focused Ultrasound Therapy aims to stop signs of the tremor completely.

"A non-invasive procedure which most patients like, no incisions and you use sound waves to focus ultrasound into a discrete part of the brain where the tremor cells are and eliminate it," Dr. Tierney said.

Patients are awake for the MR-guided procedure. A lot of time on the table is spent looking for any indication of side effects. Patients may experience weakness, tiredness and numbness but those effects should go away after a month.

At this time, doctors in the U.S. only do the procedure on one side of the body. Dr. Tierney expects that to change in the future. For that reason, Kruse will stay on medications he takes for his tremor.

Video after the procedure shows Kruse able to hold his hand out straight without a shake and take a sip from a bottle of water without shaking. It's a drastic change from before the procedure.

"We're really treating the socio-isolation that goes with having essential tremor. There's a lot of stigma, some embarrassment about sitting in public and eating or drinking and a lot of these patients have a new lease on life," Dr. Tierney said.

It's a sentiment also expressed by Kruse, "the confidence it will bring me in the future is such a huge blessing which leads to greater self esteem."