Unilateral thalamic ventral intermediate (VIM) deep brain stimulation (DBS) is now accepted as an effective treatment for essential tremor (ET) and tremor related to Parkinson's disease (PD). The effects of unilateral placement on the side ipsilateral to the surgical site have not been carefully evaluated. To systematically assess the effects ipsilateral to the surgical side and to determine the effects of device inactivation on the baseline tremor, we evaluated tremor in 73 patients approximately 3 months after their unilateral thalamic placement. Assessment included blinded and unblinded ratings using the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale for PD patients and a modified Tremor Rating Scale in ET patients. All measures of tremor contralateral to the implantation site improved significantly and robustly in both PD and ET. Implantation did not worsen tremor by any measure on the ipsilateral side. There was mild ipsilateral improvement as measured by lower observed tremor scores in ET (6.0 +/- 1.8 to 5.0 +/- 1.9, P < 0.005), but not PD. There was no rebound augmentation of tremor in either hand after the devices were deactivated in either group. We conclude that VIM DBS may mildly improve ipsilateral ET, and that concerns about meaningful ipsilateral tremor augmentation after device deactivation are not warranted.
Copyright 2001 Movement Disorder Society.