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Stereotactic radiation offers relief from tremors

Stereotactic radiation appears to offer an effective and less invasive way to relieve uncontrollable shaking in patients caused by Parkinson's disease or a condition known as essential tremor, according to findings presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology.

Researchers at Texas Tech University studied 183 people who underwent radiosurgery for hard-to-treat tremors between 1991 and 2007. An average of seven years after treatment, 84 percent of people had significant or complete resolution of tremors.

Study author Rufus Mark, MD, says:

The results compare favorably with those obtained using the two other methods most commonly used to treat tremors that aren’t helped by medication - deep brain stimulation, in which electrodes are surgically implanted in the brain, and radiofrequency ablation, which uses intense heat to burn tissue away.

Only three people, or 1.5 percent, experienced serious side effects, all in the form of brain swelling that can lead to partial paralysis. All three were treated successfully.

Stereotactic radiation is a specialized type of external beam radiation therapy that pinpoints high doses of radiation directly on a confined area of the brain. One type of therapy, called the CyberKnife, was developed at Stanford by John Adler, MD.

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