Noninvasive Thalamotomy for Refractory Tremor by Frameless Radiosurgery

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2022 Jan 1;112(1):121-130. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2021.08.021. Epub 2021 Aug 25.


Purpose: We sought to determine whether a more widely accessible, noninvasive, frameless approach to radiosurgical thalamotomy would improve objective measures of refractory essential or parkinsonian tremor without added toxicity compared with reports of frame-based radiosurgery.

Methods and materials: We conducted a single-arm pilot observational prospective trial of adult patients with essential or parkinsonian tremor from 2013 to 2019 and report results at 1-year follow-up. Patients were treated with frameless unilateral radiosurgical ablation of the thalamic ventral intermediate nucleus to a maximum dose of 160 Gy. Treatment response was measured by the Fahn-Tolosa-Marin (FTM) tremor rating scale and the Quality of Life in Essential Tremor or Parkinson's Disease Questionnaire obtained before treatment and at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.

Results: Thirty-three patients, including 23 with essential tremor and 10 with Parkinson's disease, were enrolled. Overall treatment response rate per FTM was 83% (15 of 18) at 6 months. There was a marked improvement in tremor, with an average total FTM reduction of 21% at 3 months (from 46 to 30 points; P = .003) and 41% at 6 months (from 46 to 24 points; P = .001). At 6 months, functional decline had regressed by 54% (from 15 to 7 points; P = .001). Quality of life improved by 57% (P = .001) at 6 months in patients with essential tremor, and patients with Parkinson's disease had unchanged quality of life. At 1-year follow-up, grade 2 neurologic adverse events were observed in 6% (2 of 33) of patients without any grade ≥ 3 events.

Conclusion: Noninvasive, frameless radiosurgical thalamotomy may be a feasible treatment for patients with refractory tremor and demonstrates short-term safety at 1-year follow-up. This pilot study provides promising preliminary descriptions of efficacy, and definitive estimates of long-term safety and benefit require further study with longer follow-up.

Trial registration: NCT01734122.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiosurgery* / adverse effects
  • Radiosurgery* / methods
  • Thalamus* / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tremor* / radiotherapy

Associated data