Australian first: pioneering treatment for hand dystonia performed on concert violinist

Concert violinist, Ella Laskova was a celebrated chamber musician performing across Europe, until she suffered from a rare condition that limited movement in her left hand and put her career in jeopardy. Focal dystonia is a movement disorder, characterised by sustained or intermittent muscle contractions resulting in abnormal movements or postures isolated to a single body part. This type of dystonia is commonly triggered by particular tasks, like writing or playing an instrument. After years enduring several unsuccessful operations and treatments, Ella was ready to give up hope until she received life-changing treatment from St Vincent’s Hospital’s neurosurgeons Prof Stephen Tisch, Dr Joel Maamary and their skilled team of clinicians.

An MRI guided focussed ultrasound, MRgFUS – the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere – has allowed highly successful treatment of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor.  Ella’s procedure was its first use for the treatment of focal dystonia, and she played her violin beautifully immediately after the procedure.

“In terms of the treatment outcome, it’s definitely medicine but it has a magical feel to it.” said Dr Joel Maamary of the procedure on an episode of ABC’s 7.30.

Click here to watch the episode on demand and hear how the innovative treatment brought music back to Ella’s life and gives hope to other individuals who struggle with this condition.

Prof Stephen Tisch’s research into Dystonia and Dr Maarmary’s Research Fellow position are made possible thanks to the generous support from our donors. Donations also support a public access fund to allow more patients to undergo this treatment, which is not currently government funded.