Bilateral thermal capsulotomy with MR-guided focused ultrasound for patients with treatment-refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder: a proof-of-concept study

Mol Psychiatry. 2015 Oct;20(10):1205-11. doi: 10.1038/mp.2014.154. Epub 2014 Nov 25.


Despite optimal pharmacotherapy and cognitive-behavioral treatments, a proportion of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) remain refractory to treatment. Neurosurgical ablative or nondestructive stimulation procedures to treat these refractory patients have been investigated. However, despite the potential benefits of these surgical procedures, patients show significant surgery-related complications. This preliminary study investigated the use of bilateral thermal capsulotomy for patients with treatment-refractory OCD using magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) as a novel, minimally invasive, non-cranium-opening surgical technique. Between February and May 2013, four patients with medically refractory OCD were treated with MRgFUS to ablate the anterior limb of the internal capsule. Patients underwent comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations and imaging at baseline, 1 week, 1 month and 6 months following treatment. Outcomes were measured with the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS), the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HAM-A), and treatment-related adverse events were evaluated. The results showed gradual improvements in Y-BOCS scores (a mean improvement of 33%) over the 6-month follow-up period, and all patients showed almost immediate and sustained improvements in depression (a mean reduction of 61.1%) and anxiety (a mean reduction of 69.4%). No patients demonstrated any side effects (physical or neuropsychological) in relation to the procedure. In addition, there were no significant differences found in the comprehensive neuropsychological test scores between the baseline and 6-month time points. This study demonstrates that bilateral thermal capsulotomy with MRgFUS can be used without inducing side effects to treat patients with medically refractory OCD. If larger trials validate the safety, effectiveness and long-term durability of this new approach, this procedure could considerably change the clinical management of treatment-refractory OCD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal Capsule / surgery
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Interventional / methods
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnostic imaging*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / surgery*
  • Ultrasonic Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / methods