Our objective was to investigate the long-term safety and efficacy of unilateral deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the VIM nucleus of the thalamus in essential tremor. Forty-nine patients were evaluated for DBS between December 1993 and March 1998. Tremor was assessed by a clinical rating scale at 3 and 12 months and then yearly. Three patients were not implanted, seven were explanted prior to 24 months, 11 were lost to long-term follow-up, and three died from unrelated causes. Twenty-five patients were evaluated with follow-up greater than or equal to 2 years. The last postsurgical follow-up occurred on average 40.2 +/- 14.7 months after surgery. Tremor scores were significantly improved with stimulation on at the long-term follow-up as compared to baseline. There was no change in tremor scores from baseline to long-term follow-up with stimulation off. There was no significant change in any stimulus parameters from 3 months to the long-term follow-up. Three patients had asymptomatic intracerebral hemorrhages and one patient had postoperative seizures. Stimulus-related adverse reactions were mild and easily controlled with changes in stimulus parameters. Device-related complications were common and required repeated surgical procedures. Unilateral DBS of the thalamus has long-term efficacy in some patients for treatment of essential tremor. However, this therapy is compromised by loss of efficacy in some patients and device complications which increase the risk of additional surgical procedures.
Copyright 2001 Movement Disorder Society.