Focused Ultrasound Thalamotomy and Other Interventions for Medication-Refractory Essential Tremor: An Indirect Comparison of Short-Term Impact on Health-Related Quality of Life

Value Health. 2018 Oct;21(10):1168-1175. doi: 10.1016/j.jval.2018.03.015. Epub 2018 Jun 28.


Background: Up to 50% of essential tremor patients are refractory to medication and require alternative treatment to achieve tremor relief. This study aimed to identify and analyze evidence supporting the use of the emerging magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) compared to alternative stimulatory and ablative interventions for the treatment of medication-refractory essential tremor: radiofrequency thalamotomy, unilateral deep brain stimulation (DBS), and stereotactic radiosurgery.

Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted to identify clinical, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and economic evidence for each intervention. Because of the lack of comparative evidence captured, a feasibility assessment was performed to determine possible comparisons between interventions, and newly established matching-adjusted indirect comparison and simulated treatment comparison techniques were used to conduct a comparison between unilateral DBS aggregate data and MRgFUS individual patient data.

Results: The systematic literature review identified 1,559 records, and screening yielded 46 relevant articles. The captured studies demonstrated that radiofrequency thalamotomy, DBS, stereotactic radiosurgery, and MRgFUS all exhibit clinical efficacy, with variation in onset and duration of tremor relief, and are each associated with a unique safety profile. The matching-adjusted indirect comparison and simulated treatment comparison results demonstrated no evidence of a difference in efficacy (measured by Clinical Rating Scale for Tremor Total) and HRQoL (measured by Clinical Rating Scale for Tremor Part C) outcomes between MRgFUS and unilateral DBS in the short term (≤12 months).

Conclusions: This study provides preliminary evidence that MRgFUS could elicit similar short-term tremor- and HRQoL-related benefits to DBS, the current standard of care, and allowed for the first robust statistical comparison between these interventions.

Keywords: deep brain stimulation; essential tremor; focused ultrasound; indirect comparison.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods*
  • Essential Tremor / diagnostic imaging*
  • Essential Tremor / therapy
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life*
  • Radiosurgery / methods*
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thalamus / surgery
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / methods*