Background: Tremor is an important cause of disability in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) of the thalamus is said to be beneficial for MS tremor.
Objective: To assess the long-term efficacy of VIM DBS for MS disabling tumor.
Methods: We treated 10 patients (4 men and 6 women) with advanced MS-related medication-resistant tremor with DBS at the VIM thalamic nucleus. DBS was unilateral in 9 patients and bilateral in 1 patient in 2 stages. Contralateral arm tremor was assessed with the Fahn-Tolosa-Marin tremor rating scale.
Results: At 1 year, 5 of 10 patients (5 of 11 hemispheres) had a reduction in tremor scores with stimulation compared with baseline; in 3 patients, the reduction was > 50%. After 36 months, 3 patients continued benefiting from stimulation, 2 having > 50% improvement. Of the 6 symptomatic sides that did not benefit at 1 year, 3 failed to have even initial benefit, and 3 had a transient improvement lasting < 1 year. One patient stopped using stimulation because of a lack of improvement at 5 months after surgery and was lost to follow-up.
Conclusion: Approximately one-half of the patients derived some benefit from VIM DBS 1 year after surgery, but this benefit reached a > 50% reduction in only 30% of the patients. This level of improvement may be related to the variability of the demyelinating lesions and the superimposition of ataxia in the MS patients. Developing better treatments for MS tremor continues to be a challenge.