For five years Elias Pharon suffered uncontrollable tremors in his hands.
He struggled to eat, drink and write.
"I like to work with my hands and it was almost impossible for me," he said. "I'm a determined person, I refused help"
But thanks to a team of scientists from the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, with a little help from a new technology they acquired last year, Pharon can do many things that he struggled to do for a long time.
"My hands are stable, like a rock," he said.
Elias Pharon was the first patient in Calgary to be treated with the new procedure. (CBC)
Earlier this year, Pharon underwent a procedure to treat his essential tremor using a machine called magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS), which fits inside an MRI machine.
Magnetic resonance imaging provides real-time visual images of the patient's brain, while the highly focused ultrasound waves of MRgFUS point to a specific area of the brain, essentially burning the trouble spot.
Bruce Pike, professor of radiology and clinical neuroscience, said that ultrasound technology is not new, but figuring out how to use it to penetrate the skull is.
"The innovation that has happened in the last decade is a wide variety of ultrasound transducers," he said. "In this case, about 1024 of them in a helmet-type configuration focused toward a central point."
A rubber layer surrounding the helmet fills with water before being placed around the patient's head.
Pike said that this acts in the same way as a baby's amniotic sac and helps ultrasound waves penetrate the skull.
First procedure in Calgary
Dr. Zelma Kiss performed the first procedure using technology in Calgary in Pharon earlier this year. Since then, six others have been completed.
According to Kiss, the above procedure to repair this type of tremor would have required drilling a small hole through the patient's skull, allowing a probe to pbad and burn the target area. .
"The new part of this is the fact that we can do it without making an opening in the skull, without making an incision in the skin," he said. "Until now, more people are potentially willing to undergo this type of procedure that has less risk."
A big advantage of the new procedure, according to Kiss, is that it is a day surgery.
He said in general that the patient experiences instant results and can go home within 24 hours.
Dr. Zelma Kiss performed the first procedure on the Elias Pharon patient earlier this year. There are two other ultrasound machines focused by magnetic resonance in Canada, which are both in Toronto. (CBC)
"I'm a million times better, maybe it's an exaggeration for you, but that's how I feel," he said.
Kiss said the hope is to use this technology someday to treat things like Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.
There are two other magnetic resonance-focused ultrasound machines in Canada, both in Toronto.
Kiss said that approximately 1,000 procedures of this type have been carried out around the world so far.  Your team plans to do two procedures per month from the New Year.