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First public hospital in Australia to provide innovative incisionless surgery

L to R: Dr Sam Heshmat (Medical Director Neurology), Neville Waterstrom (Patient), Dr Wayne Ng (Neurosurgeon), Sobee Maharjan (Nurse Navigator).

Gold Coast University Hospital is the first Australian public hospital to offer innovative incisionless surgery for people with disabling neurological conditions like essential tremors.

The service has been provided $3.5 million in funding for a Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS), which is a non-invasive procedure which uses MRI to locate and treat areas of the brain that trigger symptoms of movement disorders.

More than 1,000 ultrasound beams intersect at a single point and create tiny lesion on the brain, disrupting the abnormal brain activity and significantly reducing tremors.

Patients do not require general anaesthetic and improvements can often be demonstrated in real-time, as patients are awake throughout the incisionless procedure.

As this surgery is non-invasive, there are no incisions or drill holes, which enhances recovery time, and enables patients to potentially be discharged the following day.

Each patient requires a “halo” to be fitted during the procedure, to keep their head still and their scalp cool. This halo is unique to each patient and can only be used once.

Quotes attributable to Gold Coast Health Medical Director Neurology, Dr Sam Heshmat:

“At Gold Coast Health, we are proud to launch this innovative service to help patients with certain movement disorders, including tremors.

“To see a significant change in a patient’s functional capacity within a few hours, to see them gain back some independence after so many years, it’s just priceless.

“This service is unique as it involves a group of clinicians from different specialties.

Neurologists, neurosurgeons, and our radiology colleagues all play a role within each patient’s journey. We also have a Nurse Navigator, which is a newly created position specifically for this service.”

Quotes attributable to Neville Waterstrom, 74-years-old, Patient:

“I’ve been experiencing Essential Tremors for the last 30 years. It’s been incredibly difficult to do even simple tasks like feed myself, and drinking out of a glass was just not a possibility.

“This procedure has completely changed my life. I haven’t been able to write properly for at least 20 years, and now – it’s just amazing. I can drink a glass of water again, and this is just one hour after the procedure.

“The joy and privilege I feel is immeasurable as the first person in Queensland to receive this treatment. I just want to thank everybody that has been involved, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Quotes attributable to CEO Gold Coast Hospital Foundation, Russell Ousley:

“The Gold Coast Hospital Foundation is incredibly honoured to support another life-changing treatment for our local community with Incisionless Surgery.

“Thanks to the generosity of our incredible donors, the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation has contributed over $386,000 towards the purchase and supply of Halo Kits, essential for every patient undergoing this precision surgery. This equipment will have a profound impact on patients suffering from tremors.

“The Foundation is dedicated to supporting leading initiatives like this, it enables us to use community donations to make a positive impact that will change lives.”

Further information:
This remains a novel technology, however a report by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) found MRgFUS significantly reduced total tremor, hand tremor, tremor-related disability.
While improvements tended to diminish with time, significant improvements compared to baseline were reported for up to five years post-procedure.

Last updated 12 Jul 2024