In the beginning of 2020, Insightec announced the first Treatment Center in Latin America when Red de Salud UC CHRISTUS in Chile started treating patients with Essential Tremor and Tremor-dominant Parkinson’s Disease. Then COVID-19 changed the world and Chile has been focused on managing a major health crisis. As soon as the restriction on elective procedures was lifted in early September, the Focused Ultrasound team at UC CHRISTUS restarted their Incisionless Neurosurgery program, with a clear objective to keep patients safe.
Keeping patients safe is a key goal at all healthcare institutions, which have implemented specific safety protocols to screen, test and prevent the spread of COVID. Red de Salud UC CHRISTUS has developed and implemented a safe care protocol that includes temperature checks prior to treatment, allowing only essential people in the MRI suite, requiring everyone to wear masks and excluding family members from the recovery room. This procedure is also 100% ambulatory, meaning that the patient does not have to stay overnight in the hospital after treatment.
Efforts to reduce in-person consultations at hospitals and clinics resulted in major growth of telemedicine over the last six months. “At UC Christus, we have a Virtual Medical Center, allowing us to diagnose tremor patients from all over Chile remotely,” added Dr. Carlos Juri Clavería, neurologist at UC CHRISTUS. Some of these patients had heard about Focused Ultrasound, or Neuro HIFU as it is known as in Chile, and were inquiring about the incisionless treatment.
“Focused Ultrasound is a safe treatment, performed in an imaging suite with no incisions such that there is little risk of infection,” commented Dr. José Lorenzoni Santos, neurosurgeon at UC CHRISTUS and President of the Sociedad de Neurocirugía de Chile/Society of Neurosurgery Chile. Additionally, the team is now performing Focused Ultrasound as an outpatient procedure so that patients can return home quickly.
The treatment team includes Elizabeth Vergara, a nurse, who works closely with the patients starting with initial consultation, through to confirming they are candidates for treatment and then on treatment day. Additionally, Insightec Clinical Applications Specialists are usually present on treatment day to support the Exablate Neuro platform. With travel restrictions due to COVID, a remote communications system was implemented together with “boots on the ground” support by the local distributor, Medicine Laser.
Remote support was actually set up during installation of the Exablate Neuro platform in December. When COVID hit, the team adapted to the new situation with a remote communications protocol. This included 2-way audio/video implemented with Zoom and ensuring that the team had knowledge of English to communicate with remote Insightec Applications Specialists with onsite support provided by Medicine Laser.
Working in collaboration with UC CHRISTUS and Medicine Laser, Insightec tested the communication protocol and ran an educational session prior to restarting Focused Ultrasound procedures.
On treatment day, everything ran smoothly. Zoom allowed the remote team to see the happy patient and the happy treatment team as the spirals showed the patient’s tremor improvement. Denis Weisner from Medicine Laser live texted updates to the remote Insightec team throughout the treatment.
Congratulations to UC CHRISTUS – Focused Ultrasound has been successfully restarted in Latin America. The team is ready to continue building their Focused Ultrasound program to treat tremor patients from Latin America.
Note that patients treated with Focused Ultrasound for Essential Tremor or Tremor-dominant Parkinson’s Disease at UC Christus pay out of pocket.
For additional information about focused ultrasound for essential tremor, including safety information, please click here.