Medical Breakthrough for Parkinson's Patients

The University of Virginia is leading the first effort to use noninvasive focused ultrasound to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Since 2011, UVa has been a center for research in focused ultrasound, the use of high-intensity sound energy to destroy damaged or diseased tissue. It has proved safe and effective for patients with essential tremor, officials said, providing an alternative to risky brain surgery.

Kimberly Spletter's knee would pop backward involuntarily, or her leg would shake uncontrollably. Sometimes she'd cross her legs tightly, trying to make it all stop — to no avail.

"I had to live with it," said the 50-year-old Frederick woman, who suffers from Parkinson's disease. "I tried to keep it to a dull roar, but that was the best that I could do."

That all changed in a matter of hours last week after Spletter underwent a procedure that guided ultrasound waves through her skull to kill the brain cells interfering with her motor skills. She's participating in a clinical study looking at a cutting-edge way — known as focused ultrasound — to possibly treat certain Parkinson's symptoms noninvasively.

Kimberly Spletter says before she received the treatment, she couldn't even walk. Now, she can do anything she wants to.

You don't want to miss her remarkable story.

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