For Tony Lightfoot, just trying to enjoy a muffin and coffee is a major challenge. He’s had essential tremor disorder for more than ten years. Quality of life has really taken a nosedive. And eating, my wife often has to feed me with a spoon, especially the last bit on the plate. But that could all change today, as Tony is the fifth patient at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre to undergo a groundbreaking new procedure. Doctors will be operating deep inside his brain without making any incisions. Dr. Michael Schwartz is leading the study on this new scalpel-free surgery for patient with essential tremor, which is the most common movement disorder. The procedure that we do is MR-guided focused ultrasound, and we direct the focus to the target that we would like to ablate. That means making a small hole in the brain to damage the brain in fact in one area to interupt a circuit that’s bad for the patient and in this case is causing tremor. Before the treatment begins, doctors do a final tremor assessment, where Tony can’t even hold a glass of water. He is also asked to copy the swirl on the left. This image shows his attempts on the right. After his head is shaved, Tony is fitted with a frame, which is then placed inside a special helmet-like device. It was manufactured by Insightec, based on research of scientists at Sunnybrook and in Boston, and helps guide the surgical team with the help of MRI images. Tony stays awake so surgeons can test his progress between each ablation, or zap to the brain. You can visibly see how over the course of the procedure, his hand becomes progressively more stable. Doctors are only able to treat one side and focus ont he dominant hand to help improve each patient’s quality of life. So far, Dr. Schwartz says, every patient has shown improvement. We are very impressed with the efficacy of the procedure. So far it’s been perfectly safe and we look forward to using it for other applications as well. That may include cancers and tumours of the breast, bone, head, neck and rectum, as well as facial pain. In addition to no incisions and no general anesthetic, patients go home within one day, and return to activities of daily living almost immediately. Frank Winnacott had the procedure in the fall and says, it’s made a world of difference. Being able to feel comfortable in company. I play bridge. I like to hold my cards I like to deal them properly. It’s nice. After several hours, Tony is brought out for his post-procedure assessment, where the effect is crystal clear. When is the last time you did that? More than ten years ago. I’m happy, he’s happy. It was a good thing today. Studies on the MR-guided focused ultrasound will be ongoing, but so far, this trial suggests that surgery without scalpels is a cut above. With Sunnyview, I’m Monica Matys.