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Focused ultrasound patient at UNC Health
Focused ultrasound patient Doug Bell with his care team at UNC Health.

As we approach the holiday season, our functional neurosurgery team reflects on the accomplishments in 2023 and express gratitude to the patients and collaborating physicians who choose UNC Health as their trusted partners in patient care.

The functional neurosurgery team remains committed to providing excellent care with a personal touch to our patients, while striving to bring novel treatments to patients and improving the patient experience. This commitment was reflected in a significant investment by UNC, Chapel Hill to bring focused ultrasound technology to treat our patients with movement disorders. Our functional neurosurgeons are fortunate to be able to work collaboratively with specialists in various departments at UNC Health to provide this minimally invasive treatment for patients with essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease.

The Movement Disorders Center at UNC Health offers high-intensity focused ultrasound for patients with essential tremor. “Bringing this treatment to UNC Health was over two years in the making,” said functional neurosurgeon Dr. Vibhor Krishna. “Many individuals from UNC Health worked tirelessly to bring this exciting treatment to UNC. We are grateful and remain steadfast in our service to the state and patients with these conditions and beyond.”

Focused ultrasound for essential tremor at UNC HealthDr. Daniel Roque from UNC Health’s Department of Neurology is another member of the focused ultrasound team at UNC Health. “The stories of our patients have truly been inspiring this year,” said Dr. Roque. Dr. Roque shared the story of Doug Bell, a patient that underwent high-intensity focused ultrasound treatment for essential tremor at UNC Health. Mr. Bell is a native of North Carolina and has been under the care of the UNC Health Movement Disorders Center for several years. For patients like Mr. Bell, essential tremor makes every day tasks like eating and drinking, bathing, getting dressed, and even driving a car extremely difficult, and disrupts their quality of life. “Daily challenges never faded Mr. Bell’s enthusiasm and spirit to beat his tremor, and he reached out to the team and expressed his interest in undergoing focused ultrasound treatment,” said Dr. Roque.

This incision-less surgery has rapidly become the mainstay treatment for patients with movement disorders, including essential tremor, and can be an effective treatment option for patients who either do not respond to medication, or who initially respond to medication that eventually becomes ineffective. Guided by real-time MR imaging, FUS can achieve precise and targeted ablation in the brain. A functional neurosurgeon first delivers ultrasound at low power to test whether ablation of the targeted area is safe. Once safety is established, the target area is ablated for sustained improvement in patient symptoms. FUS is an outpatient procedure, and many patients walk away from the procedure tremor-free.

Focused ultrasound treatment involves specialists from UNC Health’s Departments of Neurosurgery, Neurology, Radiology, andFocused ultrasound team at UNC Health during Mr. Bell's treatment. Research . Each specialist plays an important role during the procedure, ensuring that each individual patient has the best possible outcome. “Our hearts fill with joy when we help patients like Mr. Bell who is extremely pleased with the results of his surgery, and is able to enjoy the holiday season tremor-free,” said Dr. Krishna.

Dr. Vibhor Krishna is a board-certified neurosurgeon with expertise in functional neurosurgery and neuromodulation. He treats patients with movement disorders, including essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, and dystonia. He is an early adopter of focused ultrasound and is considered to be a thought leader in the field.

Dr. Daniel Roque is a board-certified neurologist and movement disorders specialist with specific expertise in diagnosing and treating multiple tremor syndromes. His clinical and research focus is on the improvement of tremors through both traditional and innovative methods, seeking out quality of life initiatives for patients with movement disorders.


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Article written by: Makenzie Hardy, Marketing Coordinator, UNC Health Department of Neurosurgery