Concepts and methods in chronic thalamic stimulation for treatment of tremor: technique and application

Neurosurgery. 2001 Mar;48(3):535-41; discussion 541-3. doi: 10.1097/00006123-200103000-00015.


Objective: To rationalize the technique and reduce the costs associated with chronic deep brain stimulation of the thalamus for treatment of refractory tremor.

Methods: The efficacy and safety of a modification in surgical techniques was prospectively assessed in 94 patients with tremor. Bilateral electrodes were implanted in 29 patients, and 65 patients received unilateral implants. Forty-five patients had Parkinson's disease tremor, 42 patients had essential tremor, and 7 patients had kinetic tremors of different causes. In all instances, intraoperative stimulations to analyze the thresholds of intrinsic and extrinsic responses were performed directly with the implanted leads. The electrodes were repositioned until satisfactory results were achieved. The pulse generators were implanted directly after the first step in the same operative session. Patients were not subjected to interoperative test stimulation trials.

Results: Postoperative improvement of tremor at a mean follow-up of 11.9 months was rated as excellent in 47 patients (50%), marked in 37 patients (39%), moderate in 8 patients (9%), and minor in 2 patients (2%). There was no persistent morbidity related to surgery. In patients with Parkinson's disease, the symptomatic improvement of tremor was rated as excellent in 51% of patients, marked in 36%, moderate in 11%, and minor in 2%. In patients with essential tremor, symptomatic outcome was classified as excellent in 57% of patients, marked in 36%, moderate in 5%, and minor in 2%. Six of the seven patients with kinetic tremor achieved marked symptomatic improvement, and one patient experienced moderate improvement. Forty patients experienced stimulation-related side effects. Side effects were mild in general, and they were reversible with a change in electrical parameters. They occurred more frequently in patients who had bilateral stimulation.

Conclusion: Excellent to marked improvement of tremor is achieved in the majority of patients with physiological target determination via implanted leads in thalamic deep brain stimulation. Interoperative test stimulation trials are unnecessary. Modifications in technique may help to reduce the costs of the related hospital stay.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thalamus
  • Time Factors
  • Tremor / therapy*