Suppression of Axial Tremor by Deep Brain Stimulation in Patients with Essential Tremor: Effects on Gait and Balance Measures

Tremor Other Hyperkinet Mov (N Y). 2022 Jul 1:12:23. doi: 10.5334/tohm.698. eCollection 2022.


Background: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the ventralis intermedius (VIM) nucleus of the thalamus has been successful in mitigating upper limb tremor, but the effect on gait and balance performance is unclear. Here, we aim to examine the effectiveness of VIM DBS on stride length variability, sway path length, and task-relevant tremor of various body segments in essential tremor (ET).

Methods: Seventeen ET individuals treated with DBS (ET DBS) and 17 age-and sex-matched healthy controls (HC) performed a postural balance and overground walking task. In separate and consecutive visits, ET DBS performed gait and balance tasks with DBS ON or OFF. The main outcome measures were sway path length, stride length variability, and tremor quantified from upper limb, lower limb, upper and lower trunk (axial) during the gait and balance tasks.

Results: With DBS OFF, ET DBS exhibited significantly greater stride length variability, sway path length, and tremor during gait and balance task relative to HC. Relative to DBS OFF, DBS ON reduced stride length variability and sway path length in ET DBS. The DBS-induced reduction in stride length variability was associated with the reduction in both upper trunk tremor and upper limb tremor. The DBS-induced reduction in sway path length was associated with the reduction in upper trunk tremor.

Discussion: The findings of this study revealed that VIM DBS was effective in improving gait and balance in ET DBS and that improvements in gait and postural balance were associated with a reduction of axial tremor during the tasks.

Highlights: ET patients exhibit tremor in various body locations during gait and balance.DBS reduced stride length variability and sway path length.DBS-induced improvements in gait and balance were associated with reduction in axial tremor.

Keywords: Balance; Deep brain stimulation; Essential tremor; Gait; Midline tremor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Deep Brain Stimulation*
  • Essential Tremor* / therapy
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tremor / therapy