Lecturer receives life-changing treatment for essential tremor at Liverpool's Walton Centre

  • ITV Granada Reports reporter Victoria Grimes was there as Steve underwent his treatment

A university lecturer who has spent his whole life with a tremor says he is looking forward to raising a toast at his wedding after undergoing a cutting-edge treatment.

Steve O'Connor, 53, from Manchester, has a neurological condition called Essential Tremor which causes his right hand to shake uncontrollably.

"I can't hold a cup and bring it to my mouth without the water spilling out", he explains.

"I’ve had Essential Tremor all my life, so I’ve never known anything different. But over lockdown a couple of years ago, the tremors got much worse.

Steve says the treatment will have a profound impact on his life

"I lecture in Creative Writing, so being able to write on a whiteboard and even hold a pen to write on paper is incredibly important to me.

"I've had to explain to people and declare I have a tremor, otherwise they make all sorts of assumptions.

"As a performance poet, people think I'm nervous when my hand shakes - but I'm not a nervous person."

The simplest tasks, like drinking from a cup, are almost impossible Credit: ITV Granada

But now thanks to a pioneering treatment at The Walton Centre in Liverpool, he is tremor free in his right hand.

In a UK first, ITV Granada Reports was invited to film the procedure, as Steve became the 100th patient to receive Trans-cranial MR-guided Focused Ultrasound, or Focused Ultrasound for short.

Steve wears a special headpiece to allow thee ultrasound waves to penetrate during the procedure Credit: ITV Granada

Speaking ahead of the treatment, Steve said he was anxious: "I just want the tremor gone. I really want it to work.

"It's going to be weird and revolutionary to not have it. I've never known that."

Mr Jibril Osman Farah is Consultant Neurosurgeon and lead clinician for the project and with his team, performed Steve's treatment.

The incisionless procedure involves thermal tissue ablation, targeted at the key areas of the brain causing the tremors.

Mr Farah said nearly one thousand ultrasound beams were focused onto a spot, around five millimetres in diameter, in Steve's brain.

By burning it, he is then able to 'break the circuit' of the tremor and stabilise Steve's hand.

Consultant Surgeon Mr Jibril Osman Farah explains the procedure

Steve is asked to draw spirals and lines on a piece of paper before, during and after his treatment so the team can monitor his progress - and the difference is remarkable.

Since the service launch in April 2022, 100 patients have undergone the procedure at The Walton Centre the only hospital trust in the UK specialising in neurology, neurosurgery and pain services.

It is one of only two NHS hospitals in the UK to offer Focused Ultrasound for Essential Tremor, and the first in the North of England.

There is a visible difference in the spirals Steve draws after the procedure Credit: ITV Granada

Essential Tremor is a neurological disorder that causes an uncontrollable shake or trembling in a part of the body.

It is one of the most common neurological movement disorders, affecting around one million people in the UK and is thought to be eight to 10 times more prevalent than Parkinsons disease, according to the National Tremor Foundation.

A thumbs up from Steve after his treatment was successful Credit: ITV Granada

Speaking less than 24 hours after his treatment, Steve said: "I feel really good. I have had two cups of tea and two hot chocolates without spilling them all over myself.

"The first response I saw was my partner's - an emotional moment that really got me. Having Focused Ultrasound on my dominant side has been revolutionary.

"It’s new to have a hand that doesn’t tremor, and I can’t tell you how much it means to me."

Currently, eligible patients get one Focused Ultrasound treatment to reduce the tremors on one side of their body.

Current regulatory approvals demonstrate good clinical durability, with tremor relief maintained at three years.

Steve and Maureen at an event to celebrate 100 patients. being treated Credit: ITV Granada

Maureen Greenough from St Helens was the first patient to receive the treatment at the Walton Centre in 2022. She describes it as 'life-changing"

Back at the hospital to celebrate the milestone, she met with Steve and said: “I couldn’t believe how immediate the change was.

"As soon as I left the treatment room I noticed that my right hand had stopped shaking, it was like the team at The Walton Centre had flipped a switch!

"Before this my writing was terrible, I couldn’t hold a cup without using both hands.

"I felt a lot of embarrassment and I didn’t feel comfortable eating in front of people. Now that’s all changed.

Maureen Greenough spoke to Correspondent Victoria Grimes following her treatment in 2022. Credit: ITV Granada

"There's no more embarrassment - I used to be frightened to go out with people, I felt like they were staring at my tremor, now there's nothing for them to see.

"The treatment The Walton Centre provides is excellent, and I will be forever grateful to the team for helping me.”

Granada Reports followed Maureen's story exclusively in 2022.

Medical Director Dr Andrew Nicolson said: “The clinical teams have been full steam aheadsince the service launch in 2022.

"All of those who have been treated with Focused Ultrasound have seen huge benefits, the majority seeing their tremors essentially disappear as soon as the procedure is over.

"Before, patients would have to undergo major surgery to achieve similar results, so it’s certainly a milestone to be proud of.”

Steve explains how life changed immediately after his treatment.

Mr Osman Farah said: “We’ve had a very productive two years delivering this service to patients with Essential Tremor.

"The outcomes have been nothing short of incredible. I’m regularly seeing patients returning to clinic after treatment continuing to be tremor-free.

"It’s an ongoing team effort, and I’m delighted we can continue to offer this pioneering treatment to patients, and expand it in the future.”

Long term plans for the ongoing delivery of the procedure include reviewing patients who have had the treatment for a second round, to address their other side of their body.

Steve with his long-term partner Vicky. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Steve is now getting on with planning his future without the tremor in his right hand.

"At some point I would really like to marry my partner", he said.

"But things like being able to raise a toast at the reception - I couldn't have done that before treatment without spilling my drink everywhere."

"Now, it shouldn't be a problem," he says, with a big smile.

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