Stereotactic ventrooralis thalamotomy for task-specific focal hand dystonia (writer's cramp)

Stereotact Funct Neurosurg. 2003;80(1-4):88-91. doi: 10.1159/000075165.


Background: Writer's cramp is a type of focal dystonia due to dysfunction of the pallido-thalamo-cortical circuit. The symptom is refractory to most conservative treatment, though botulinum toxin injection is generally used for symptomatic relief. As a surgical treatment of dystonia, we performed stereotactic nucleus ventrooralis (Vo) thalamotomy for dystonic cramp of the hand.

Methods: Twelve patients (5 men, 3 women; age 26-40 years, mean 32.1 years) with medically intractable task-specific focal dystonia of the hand underwent Vo thalamotomy. The stereotactic target was chosen at the junction of the anterior and posterior Vo nuclei.

Results: The mean duration of the symptom ranged from 3 to 6 years (mean 4.5 years.) All patients had complained of difficulty in writing. Seven patients were professionals, such as a comic artist, guitarist and barber, and, because of the dystonic symptoms occurring during their work, they had stopped pursuing their profession. All patients showed immediate postoperative disappearance of dystonic symptoms, and the effect was sustained during the follow-up period (3-33 months, mean 13.1 months), except in one case. Two patients showed partial recurrence of the symptom and underwent second thalamotomy 5 months after the initial surgery with satisfactory results. The score on the writer's cramp rating scale decreased significantly (p < 0.001) after Vo thalamotomy. There were no permanent operative complications. There was no mortality or permanent morbidity.

Conclusion: Although a longer follow-up is needed, stereotactic Vo thalamotomy is a useful and safe therapeutic option for writer's cramp.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dystonic Disorders / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurosurgical Procedures
  • Quality of Life
  • Stereotaxic Techniques*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ventral Thalamic Nuclei / surgery*