Dr Samuel Bolitho

MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound

Note: Starting 31 March 2024, MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound will be available under Medicare as it has been added to the Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS), making it more widely accessible.

MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) is an innovative, non-invasive therapeutic technology used in neurology and other medical fields. This technology combines Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with focused ultrasound (FUS) to treat various neurological conditions.

MRgFUS uses high-intensity focused ultrasound waves to target tissue deep within the body, without needing incisions or radiation. MRI provides real-time imaging to precisely target and monitor the treatment area, ensuring accuracy and safety.

Mechanism of Action

  1. Focused Ultrasound: Concentrates multiple ultrasound beams at a specific point, generating heat to ablate (destroy) targeted tissue.
  2. Thermal Ablation: The heat from the ultrasound beams causes localised destruction of pathological tissue.
  3. Blood-Brain Barrier Opening: Low-intensity focused ultrasound can temporarily open the blood-brain barrier, potentially allowing for targeted drug delivery.
MRgFUS can be used in the treatment of essential tremor, a movement disorder causing involuntary shaking.
Used for managing symptoms such as tremor and rigidity.
Effective in reducing chronic pain by targeting specific brain regions.
Non-invasive alternative for treating certain brain tumours.
Investigational use in conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.
Potential application in reducing seizure frequency.
Research is ongoing to explore the use of MRgFUS for drug delivery in dementia treatment.

The Procedure

  1. Preparation: Includes MRI scans to map the treatment area.
  2. Treatment Session: The patient is placed in an MRI scanner with a helmet-like device that delivers ultrasound waves.
  3. Real-Time Monitoring: MRI allows for real-time monitoring of the treatment, adjusting the focus and intensity of the ultrasound as needed.
  4. Duration: The procedure varies in length depending on the condition and the area being treated.

Risks and Side Effects

  • Minor Side Effects: May include headache, dizziness, or local discomfort.
  • Thermal Injury: Risk of unintended damage to adjacent tissues due to heat.
  • Temporary Numbness: Some patients may experience temporary numbness or tingling.
  • Hearing Impact: There is a potential risk of hearing damage due to the high intensity of ultrasound waves.


  • Non-Invasive: No incisions, reducing the risk of infection and speeding up recovery time.
  • Precision: Accurately targets pathological tissue while sparing surrounding healthy areas.
  • Immediate Effects: Some conditions, like essential tremor, show immediate improvement post-treatment.

Limitations and Considerations

  • Patient Selection: Suitable only for certain patients and specific conditions.
  • Long-Term Effects: As a relatively new technology, long-term effects are still being studied.

MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound represents a significant advancement in the treatment of neurological disorders. It offers a non-invasive alternative to traditional surgery, with potential applications expanding as research continues. Patients with conditions like essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease may particularly benefit from this technology. However, careful patient selection and consideration of potential risks are crucial. As research progresses, MRgFUS could become a more widespread option for treating various neurological conditions.

If MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) is a treatment modality you would like to learn more about, please contact our rooms to make a booking.

Get In Touch

Dr Samuel Bolitho is a Sydney Neurologist with sub-specialised training in movement disorders, essential tremor and Parkinson’s Disease. He brings a rare mx of medical, neurological and computational neuroscience expertise to his role, as well as a wealth of experience in biomedical engineering.