Last month, researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center became the first team in the US to treat neuropathic pain using noninvasive focused ultrasound therapy. Led by Dheeraj Gandhi, MD, the early-stage, pilot trial aims to establish the safety of destroying a small target in the brain to treat chronic neuropathic pain using Insightec’s Exablate Neuro device.
“If we can interrupt or carefully destroy the nucleus in the brain responsible for processing and amplifying pain signals, then we can disrupt this network and stop the neuropathic pain,” says Gandhi, professor of diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of neurointerventional radiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Neuropathic pain is a type of chronic pain caused by nerve damage or a malfunctioning nervous system. It can be a result of a number of things, including injury, infection, metabolic disease, or a traumatic event to the peripheral nerves or the brain. It can cause significant disability, depression, and sleep problems.
Currently, the study is limited to ten patients with certain causes of neuropathic pain: radiculopathy (sciatica), spinal cord injury, and phantom limb pain. It is being funded by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation.
“Pain is a global health problem for millions of patients, so this trial aligns with the Foundation’s mission to support research that will make a large impact,” said Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD. “Treating neuropathic pain using focused ultrasound was pioneered by Dr. Daniel Jeanmonod in Switzerland, and I am confident the University of Maryland team will build upon this work to relieve pain in many more patients.”
If this pilot trial is a success, Dr. Gandhi plans to hold a larger trial and expand to other types of neuropathic pain that are widespread, such as diabetic neuropathy pain.
Patients who are interested in participating in this trial should contact Charlene Aldrich at (410) 328-5332.
For Tammy, the hip pain started in 2010. She tried medications, surgeries, and nerve stimulator implants, but nothing alleviated her symptoms. Faced with an expensive radiation therapy, Tammy researched other options and stumbled upon the focused ultrasound trial at the University of Maryland. In September, she became the first patient to be treated there.
Dr. Dheeraj Gandhi has been involved in all aspects of clinical focused ultrasound work at the University of Maryland, with a specific focus on facilitating direct image-based targeting of brain structures using advanced MR techniques. He has been involved in more than 65 focused ultrasound procedures and is now Principal Investigator for the new clinical trial to treat neuropathic pain.