Practice parameter: therapies for essential tremor: report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology

Neurology. 2005 Jun 28;64(12):2008-20. doi: 10.1212/01.WNL.0000163769.28552.CD. Epub 2005 Jun 22.


Background: Essential tremor (ET) is one of the most common tremor disorders in adults and is characterized by kinetic and postural tremor. To develop this practice parameter, the authors reviewed available evidence regarding initiation of pharmacologic and surgical therapies, duration of their effect, their relative benefits and risks, and the strength of evidence supporting their use.

Methods: A literature review using MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index, and CINAHL was performed to identify clinical trials in patients with ET published between 1966 and August 2004. Articles were classified according to a four-tiered level of evidence scheme and recommendations were based on the level of evidence.

Results and conclusions: Propranolol and primidone reduce limb tremor (Level A). Alprazolam, atenolol, gabapentin (monotherapy), sotalol, and topiramate are probably effective in reducing limb tremor (Level B). Limited studies suggest that propranolol reduces head tremor (Level B). Clonazepam, clozapine, nadolol, and nimodipine possibly reduce limb tremor (Level C). Botulinum toxin A may reduce hand tremor but is associated with dose-dependent hand weakness (Level C). Botulinum toxin A may reduce head tremor (Level C) and voice tremor (Level C), but breathiness, hoarseness, and swallowing difficulties may occur in the treatment of voice tremor. Chronic deep brain stimulation (DBS) (Level C) and thalamotomy (Level C) are highly efficacious in reducing tremor. Each procedure carries a small risk of major complications. Some adverse events from DBS may resolve with time or with adjustment of stimulator settings. There is insufficient evidence regarding the surgical treatment of head and voice tremor and the use of gamma knife thalamotomy (Level U). Additional prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials are needed to better determine the efficacy and side effects of pharmacologic and surgical treatments of ET.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / standards
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / statistics & numerical data
  • Essential Tremor / drug therapy*
  • Essential Tremor / physiopathology
  • Essential Tremor / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Neuromuscular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / standards*
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data
  • Radiosurgery / standards
  • Radiosurgery / statistics & numerical data
  • Thalamus / physiopathology
  • Thalamus / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Neuromuscular Agents