Jersey Shore University Medical Center offers incisionless neurosurgical tremor treatment

The Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute recently announced that Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune has begun treating patients with minimally invasive MRI-guided focused ultrasound, or “HiFu.” The technology is used to treat hand tremors, or involuntary and rhythmic shaking affecting people with certain neurological conditions and is available at the academic medical center thanks to an extraordinarily generous gift by the Golden Dome Foundation.

With the addition of this state-of-the-art treatment at Jersey Shore, there are now two locations in New Jersey where it is offered. Hackensack Meridian Health is the only health network in the state providing this treatment, which has been available at the Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center since 2021.

There are few facilities in the nation providing HiFu.

91-year-old Lakewood resident Irwin Sachs was the first patient to receive the advanced treatment.

“I am so happy I was able to receive this advanced treatment, close to home, without having to travel to Philadelphia or New York,” Irwin said. “And the care I received from my nurses and, in fact, the entire team, was remarkable and compassionate.”

The treatment is performed as part of the academic medical center’s Movement Disorder Program, with the Exablate Neuro platform, developed by medical technology company Insightec. The treatment is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for essential tremor and tremor-dominant Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s disease that has not responded to medications.

Focused ultrasound uses acoustic energy that travels through the skin and skull, allowing the procedure to be performed without any incisions. Under MRI guidance, the acoustic energy is precisely focused on a targeted area deep in the brain. They converge to heat the target tissue, which disrupts the abnormal signals that cause tremor. The focused ultrasound system, together with MRI imaging, includes safety features that measure temperature changes in the skull and reduce the risk of damage to surrounding brain tissue.

The International Essential Tremor Foundation estimates 10 million Americans have essential tremor and approximately another 1 million are living with Parkinson’s Disease, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

“MRI-guided focused ultrasound is a remarkable evolution in the treatment of movement disorders with its potential to instantly decrease or eliminate tremors, improving quality of life for millions of patients,” Jersey Shore University Medical Center Chair of Neurosurgery Dr. Shabbar Danish said.

Since the focused ultrasound procedure is noninvasive, requiring no incisions and performed while the patient is awake, it is done as an outpatient procedure.

“Patients don’t need extended recovery in the hospital after the procedure and may return to everyday activities rapidly, as they experience immediate improvement,” Danish said.

The benefits of MRI-guided focused ultrasound include:

  • No surgical incisions;
  • Little risk of infection;
  • A return to everyday activities potentially the same day;
  • Performed as an outpatient procedure — no overnight hospital stay required;
  • Immediate reduction in tremors;
  • Strong safety and clinical efficacy data;
  • Minimal side effects.

“MRI-guided focused ultrasound is another example of how Jersey Shore’s neuroscience specialists continue to push the boundaries of medicine to provide the best care, allowing New Jersey residents living in the state’s central and southern regions to stay close to home while receiving state-of-the-art treatments and therapies,” Dr. Kenneth Sable, regional president, Southern Market, Hackensack Meridian Health.

The minimally invasive MRI-guided focused ultrasound was made possible by a very generous donation by the Golden Dome Foundation. The Golden Dome Foundation is a New Jersey-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was founded in 2015 by the late Dr. Robert H. Harris and his wife — the organization’s current president — Mary Ellen Harris, to support charitable causes. Over the span of several years, the Golden Dome Foundation has invested heavily at Hackensack Meridian Health medical centers, including Bayshore Medical Center and Ocean University Medical Center, in addition to Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

“Advancing research to improve the quality of life for patients facing diseases and disorders was so important to my husband,” Harris said. “Making this gift enables me to further his legacy by investing in life-saving technology in support of patients in New Jersey. Our local community needs access to the highest quality of care and I am incredibly honored to be able to play a part in ensuring that it can be provided to those in need. I hope that this new equipment improves the lives of so many who are suffering.”