Ontario Expanding Life-Changing Treatment for Patients with Essential Tremors

Published on July 15, 2019

Investments in Frontline Care will Improve Ontarians’ Quality of Life


TORONTO — Approximately four per cent of Ontarians aged 65 years and older are living with essential tremors—a condition that causes uncontrollable shaking that can make it challenging to complete simple tasks like fastening a button and drinking water from a cup. That's why Ontario is investing in frontline services and expanded treatment options to improve the quality of life for more Ontarians.

Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, was at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre to announce an additional $1.4 million in funding for 72 more patients to receive a new, non-invasive treatment for essential tremors. This new treatment uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to guide high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) waves to a specific area of the brain to remove the cells that cause tremors. While there is currently no cure for essential tremors, during clinical trials, the treatment has shown to improve tremors by 46 per cent, with shorter recovery times and lower risks than surgery.

"Our government is protecting what matters most by helping more people with essential tremors get a new, life-changing treatment," said Elliott. "By investing in non-invasive treatments that can help manage symptoms and provide relief, we can help improve the quality of life for more patients. This is part of our government's commitment to focus health care dollars where they will have the most impact and do the most good for Ontarians, on frontline care."

MRI-guided HIFU to treat essential tremors is a non-invasive alternative treatment option to surgery or medications. This treatment is currently is offered at Sunnybrook and University Health Network (UHN) and has shown to be more cost efficient than surgery.

"Focused ultrasound is the new frontier of medicine," said Dr. Andy Smith, President and CEO, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. "Replacing scalpels with soundwaves is revolutionary for the field and more importantly is an incredible advance in the quality of care for patients. This will minimize hospital stays, reduce infections, and give people a new sense of hope. We would like to thank the Ontario government for this important investment in this game-changing technology."

Quick Facts

  • Following approval by Health Canada, the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee recommended that MRI-guided HIFU to treat essential tremors be publicly funded in May 2018.
  • This year, Ontario will invest a total of nearly $1.9 million in MRI-guided HIFU to treat essential tremors.
  • In 2018-19, the ministry provided funding for 24 procedures (12 at Sunnybrook, 12 at UHN)
  • In 2019-20, the ministry provided funding for 96 procedures (48 at Sunnybrook, 48 at UHN)
  • Sunnybrook and UHN are currently the only two centres in Ontario that offer this procedure.