Primary dystonia is more responsive than secondary dystonia to pallidal interventions: outcome after pallidotomy or pallidal deep brain stimulation

Neurosurgery. 2004 Mar;54(3):613-19; discussion 619-21. doi: 10.1227/01.neu.0000108643.94730.21.


Objective: The response of patients with dystonia to pallidal procedures is not well understood. In this study, we assessed the postoperative outcome of patients with primary and secondary dystonia undergoing pallidotomy or pallidal deep brain stimulation.

Methods: Fifteen patients with dystonia had pallidal surgery (lesions or deep brain stimulation). These included nine patients with primary dystonia (generalized and cervical dystonias) and six with secondary dystonia (generalized, segmental, and hemidystonias). There were nine male patients and six female patients. The mean age at onset was 21 years for primary dystonia and 18 years for secondary dystonia. The primary outcome measure was a Global Outcome Scale score for dystonia at 6 months after surgery. Other outcome measures were the Burke-Fahn-Marsden Dystonia Rating Scale and Toronto Western Spasmodic Torticollis Rating Scale scores.

Results: The mean Global Outcome Scale score at 6 months for patients with primary dystonia was 3 (improvement in both movement disorder and function). In contrast, patients with secondary dystonia had a mean score of 0.83 (mild or no improvement in movement disorder with no functional improvement). All patients with primary dystonia had normal brains by magnetic resonance imaging, whereas five of six patients with secondary dystonia had basal ganglia abnormalities on their magnetic resonance imaging scans.

Conclusion: This study indicates that primary dystonia responds much better than secondary dystonia to pallidal procedures. We could not distinguish a difference in efficacy between pallidotomy and pallidal deep brain stimulation. The presence of basal ganglia abnormalities on the preoperative magnetic resonance imaging scan is an indicator of a lesser response to pallidal interventions for dystonia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Dystonic Disorders / etiology
  • Dystonic Disorders / physiopathology
  • Dystonic Disorders / surgery*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Female
  • Glasgow Outcome Scale
  • Globus Pallidus / physiopathology
  • Globus Pallidus / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Treatment Outcome