Background: The standard treatment option for medication-refractory essential tremor is invasive neurosurgery. A new, noninvasive alternative is magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) neurosurgery. We aimed to determine the effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness of MRgFUS neurosurgery for the treatment of moderate to severe, medication-refractory essential tremor in Ontario. We also spoke with people with essential tremor to gain an understanding of their experiences and thoughts regarding treatment options, including MRgFUS neurosurgery.
Methods: We performed a systematic review of the clinical literature published up to April 11, 2017, that examined MRgFUS neurosurgery alone or compared with other interventions for the treatment of moderate to severe, medication-refractory essential tremor. We assessed the risk of bias of each study and the quality of the body of evidence according to the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) Working Group criteria. We performed a systematic review of the economic literature and created Markov cohort models to assess the cost-effectiveness of MRgFUS neurosurgery compared with other treatment options, including no surgery. We also estimated the budget impact of publicly funding MRgFUS neurosurgery in Ontario for the next 5 years. To contextualize the potential value of MRgFUS neurosurgery as a treatment option for essential tremor, we spoke with people with essential tremor and their families.
Results: Nine studies met our inclusion criteria for the clinical evidence review. In noncomparative studies, MRgFUS neurosurgery was found to significantly improve tremor severity and quality of life and to significantly reduce functional disability (GRADE: very low). It was also found to be significantly more effective than a sham procedure (GRADE: high). We found no significant difference in improvements in tremor severity, functional disability, or quality of life between MRgFUS neurosurgery and deep brain stimulation (GRADE: very low). We found no significant difference in improvement in tremor severity compared with radiofrequency thalamotomy (GRADE: low). MRgFUS neurosurgery has a favourable safety profile.We estimated that MRgFUS neurosurgery has a mean cost of $23,507 and a mean quality-adjusted survival of 3.69 quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). We also estimated that the mean costs and QALYs of radiofrequency thalamotomy and deep brain stimulation are $14,978 and 3.61 QALYs, and $57,535 and 3.94 QALYs, respectively. For people ineligible for invasive neurosurgery, we estimated the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of MRgFUS neurosurgery compared with no surgery as $43,075 per QALY gained. In people eligible for invasive neurosurgery, the ICER of MRgFUS neurosurgery compared with radiofrequency thalamotomy is $109,795 per QALY gained; when deep brain stimulation is compared with MRgFUS neurosurgery, the ICER is $134,259 per QALY gained. Of note however, radiofrequency thalamotomy is performed very infrequently in Ontario. We also estimated that the budget impact of publicly funding MRgFUS neurosurgery in Ontario at the current case load (i.e., 48 cases/year) would be about $1 million per year for the next 5 years.People with essential tremor who had undergone MRgFUS neurosurgery reported positive experiences with the procedure. The tremor reduction they experienced improved their ability to perform activities of daily living and improved their quality of life.
Conclusions: MRgFUS neurosurgery is an effective and generally safe treatment option for moderate to severe, medication-refractory essential tremor. It provides a treatment option for people ineligible for invasive neurosurgery and offers a noninvasive option for all people considering neurosurgery.For people ineligible for invasive neurosurgery, MRgFUS neurosurgery is cost-effective compared with no surgery. In people eligible for invasive neurosurgery, MRgFUS neurosurgery may be one of several reasonable options. Publicly funding MRgFUS neurosurgery for the treatment of moderate to severe, medication-refractory essential tremor in Ontario at the current case load would have a net budget impact of about $1 million per year for the next 5 years.People with essential tremor who had undergone MRgFUS neurosurgery reported positive experiences. They liked that it was a noninvasive procedure and reported a substantial reduction in tremor that resulted in an improvement in their quality of life.