Man with Parkinson's becomes first in Scotland to undergo 'miracle' procedure

Ian Keir says his tremor has 'completely gone' after having treatment described as 'milestone moment' for Scottish medicine.

The first Parkinson’s patient in Scotland to undergo a groundbreaking treatment has described it as a “miracle” that has helped him regain his independence.

Ian Keir, 63, from Carnoustie, Angus has undergone ultrasound thalamotomy, a non-invasive procedure to prevent tremors and help people control their movements.

The retired firefighter was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2018 after suffering two years of tremors in his right hand, and said the condition made him dependent on his wife for everyday tasks – but he is now able to write again and cut his own food.

The international clinical trial was hailed as a “milestone for Scottish medicine” by medics at the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine earlier this month.

Mr Keir said: “It was very innocuous to start with, but I had no control over it. I had a feeling from my research it was Parkinson’s.

“Over the years my tremors got significantly worse. It was incredibly frustrating – I had to learn to eat with just a fork. Thankfully my wife is very understanding and was a great support to me.

“My handwriting was pretty much illegible – tremors affected my right hand, but I never really mastered writing with my left hand.

Ian Keir, 63, had ultrasound thalamotomy earlier this month

“It feels like a miracle. My tremor has completely gone – it’s as though I never had it. I’m now able to do exactly what I could before.

“I can pour a jug of water, my handwriting is back, and I’m now able to do things without thinking about them beforehand. Now I’m able to cut my own food. I was obviously nervous but the improvement was almost immediate.

“While I’m aware this isn’t a cure for Parkinson’s, it is a cure for some of my symptoms. I’m so grateful and just want to make the most of every day.”

Ultrasound thalamotomy is an incision-free procedure which uses high-intensity focused ultrasound to create a lesion in a part of the brain known as the thalamus, which controls a person’s movements.

Uncontrollable tremors are a symptom of Parkinson’s, an incurable illness, and are prompted by reduced levels of dopamine in the brain.

The procedure has been carried out on Parkinson’s patients elsewhere but on a limited scale as the technology is not widely available.

Ian said he relied on his wife for everyday tasks - but has since regained his independence

It has been performed in Scotland on 60 patients living with essential tremor disorder in recent years.

The university is one of the world’s leading centres for research into Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Tom Gilbertson, consultant neurologist and honorary senior lecturer, said: “This is a milestone moment for Scottish medicine.

“We have already witnessed the transformative impact similar procedures have for patients living with essential tremor, so to replicate that for those with Parkinson’s – who may never have dreamed of having such control of their movements again – is a huge privilege.

“We are well versed in performing thalamotomy, having worked with essential tremor patients for several years now.

“However, we never fail to recognise the significance of what we are doing, and the life-changing impact it has on our patients.

“The university is recognised globally as a leader in Parkinson’s disease research and occasions such as this highlight the advances that are being made to help address this condition, which is one of the most pressing health challenges of our time.

“Ian is proof that research taking place here at the university is leading to advances capable of transforming the lives of Parkinson’s patients.”

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