At 68, Linda Bohnen has spent decades not being able to work, travel or enjoy simple pleasures. She is essentially housebound. Worse, she is trapped inside her depression and anxiety. I’ve had depression on and off most of my life but it’s been mostly on for the past thirty odd years. And we’ve tried every treatment in existence. But nothing has worked to life what she describes as this incidious disease. That may soon change. Linda is the first patient in North America to undergo an incision-free form of brain surgery for treatment resistant major depression. Called MRI-guided focused ultrasound, it uses ultrasound waves to heat and destroy the precise areas of her brain causing depression. On the day of her treatment, Linda’s hair is shaved and she is fitted with a frame, which is then attached to this specialized helmet housed in an MRI. With her head secured, her medical team can plot the precise treatment path of where the ultrasound beams will target. A newer imaging approach called diffusion tensor imaging, or DTI, paints a stunning portrait of the brain’s circuitry. And this offers us the opportunity to look at which circuits are functioning, which circuits are not, and when we do the kind of treatment we are doing with focused ultrasound which circuits we turn off. After several hours, success. These two white spots show the treated areas. Linda is the first of six patients at Sunnybrook who will undergo this procedure for depression. It takes about six hours, and patients go home the following day. Over the next year, researchers will follow these patients closely to see if the procedure is safe and helps improve symptoms. That’s been the case for a few who have already received this treatment in Asia. Now, there’s an opportunity to investigate the less invasive potentially safer means of generating lesions in the brain. And the need for new options is immense says Dr. Levitt. We’re talking about maybe two percent of the population have recurrent treatment resistant major depression. It’s a major public health issue. MRI-guided focused ultrasound is already an approved treatment for patients with essential tremor disorder. It’s also being studied for several other conditions. Linda says she’s grateful to be on the cusp of a new treatment, and is hopeful for slow and steady improvement in her own life. I’d like to be able to travel more and be more social. And to do some entertaining. Just everyday things that people who are well do. With Sunnyview, I’m Monica Matys.

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