Original article: Nine News, 22nd Oct
A Sydney nun is the first in the southern hemisphere to undergo a non-invasive procedure to treat her severe tremor.
Sister Carmel Smith, 74, has lived with the condition called essential tremor all of her adult life, affecting her ability to drink, write and teach.
Despite taking eight tablets a day, her condition wasn’t improving.
“It just got worse and worse,” she said.
Essential tremor affects about one in five people over the age of 65 and is more common than Parkinson’s disease.
St Vincent’s neurologist Dr Stephen Tisch says it particularly impacts on manual function and independent activities.
“In Carmel’s case, the essential tremor that she has, was quite resistant to the effects of medication,” Dr Tisch said.
Sr Carmel was considered the ideal candidate for a new non-invasive therapy, called MRI-guided Focussed Ultrasound.
The MRI machine is used to pinpoint the area in the brain, called the thalamus that requires treatment.
“It’s actually been long known that a particular part of the brain called the thalamus is involved in a network that causes tremor,” said St Vincent’s neurosurgeon Dr Ben Jonker.
The ultrasound energy targets only a few millimetres of brain tissue, heating it up to 60 degrees Celsius to create a tiny lesion.
“We deliberately create a lesion under very precise real-time MRI control,” said Dr Yael Barnett, St Vincent’s Director of MRI.
During this process Sr Carmel wears a halo frame to keep her head still and a water membrane keeps her scalp cool.
Minutes after having the procedure done, her symptoms disappeared.
“Alleluia,” said a relieved and excited Sr Carmel as she drank a glass of water without any tremor.