Sound Relief: Baptist Health neurosurgeon provides breakthrough treatment for essential tremors

(WSVN) - It is the most common movement disorder, and it can make day-to-day tasks nearly impossible, but now a revolutionary procedure being done in South Florida is proving to be a savior for those suffering from a type of tremor. 7’s Kevin Ozebek has our special assignment report, “Sound Relief.”

For some people, whar are thought of as simple tasks can be nearly impossible. like pouring and drinking a glass of water.

Roberto Rodriguez, essential tremors patient: “There are some people that are very cruel, and they make fun of you.”

Or lifting food into the microwave.

Roberto Rodriguez: “When I was making coffee or helping my wife with breakfast, I mean, my hand would shake so much that I just didn’t want to do it.”

And even signing your name…

Roberto Rodriguez: “It looked like it was a little kid writing.”

Seventy-two-year-old Roberto Rodriguez is one of the millions of Americans who suffer from essential tremors. Doctors aren’t sure of the cause, but they think it’s hereditary.

Roberto says the shaking in his left dominant hand started 15 years ago and continued to get worse.

Roberto Rodriguez: “I could not carry my granddaughter because I was afraid that I might drop her.”

But look at his hand now.

Kevin Ozebek: “If you could, Roberto, show me your left hand. So it’s as steady as a rock?”

Roberto Rodriguez: “Yes.”

The incredible change is thanks to a breakthrough treatment Roberto received in December.

Dr. Justin Sporrer, Baptist Health neurosurgeon: “High-frequency focused ultrasound is a treatment where we’re aiming up to 1,000 small ultrasonic waves at a very particular target deep inside the brain.”

Baptist Health neurosurgeon, Dr. Justin Sporrer, says the treatment involves a special ring placed on the patient’s head.

From a control room, he operates the ring as it emits ultrasonic beams.

Dr. Justin Sporrer: “We are able to, with good accuracy, aim those ultrasonic beams at a very specific point in the brain, that point that is causing an abnormal circuit. By doing that, we are able to stop that abnormal circuit and stop that tremor.”

In other words, the beams kill just the brain cells causing the tremors.

In Roberto’s brain scan, you can see the exact spot Dr. Sporrer targeted.

Dr. Sporrer’s assistant: “That’s spectacular.”

As soon as the procedure was over, Dr. Sporrer had Roberto draw a spiral.

Look at the spiral he drew on the left before the procedure, and the one on the right a few hours later, after the prcedure.

Relative: “How is it? Is it good?”

Roberto was given a spoon and a bowl of soup after the treatment.

Roberto Rodriguez: “Soup!”

Kevin Ozebek: “And could you eat it this time?”

Roberto Rodriguez: “Yes, yes, yes. I could eat it, with no problem whatsoever. Chicken soup! For the first time I could eat chicken soup. So good!”

Kevin Ozebek: “Are you even amazed at the results you see from this?”

Dr. Justin Sporrer: “It’s bordering on science fiction, but it’s not fiction anymore, because we’re doing it.”

Dr. Sporrer says high-frequency ultrasound can also stop tremors in some forms of Parkinson’s disease, and he believes the treatment’s potential is extraordinary.

Dr. Justin Sporrer: “Think of a brain problem, from schizophrenia to depression, in some forms of obesity, etcetera. There’s some abnormal circuit that is causing these abnormal thoughts or abnormal urges or abnormal movements, and so, if we can disrupt that abnormal circuit, then we might have a beneficial effect on the patient.”

It’s complex science, but for Roberto, it’s now back to enjoying the simple things in life.

Kevin Ozebek: “What do you really appreciate now that the steadiness is back in your hand?

Roberto Rodriguez: “Being able to carry my granddaughter. That was the big thing.”

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