Ipsilateral and axial tremor response to focused ultrasound thalamotomy for essential tremor: clinical outcomes and probabilistic mapping

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2022 Aug 22;jnnp-2021-328459. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2021-328459. Online ahead of print.


Background: MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) thalamotomy has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for essential tremor (ET).

Objective: To investigate the effects of MRgFUS in patients with ET with an emphasis on ipsilateral-hand and axial tremor subscores.

Methods: Tremor scores and adverse effects of 100 patients treated between 2012 and 2018 were assessed at 1 week, 3, 12, and 24 months. A subgroup analysis of ipsilateral-hand tremor responders (defined as patients with ≥30% improvement at any time point) and non-responders was performed. Correlations and predictive factors for improvement were analysed. Weighted probabilistic maps of improvement were generated.

Results: Significant improvement in axial, contralateral-hand and total tremor scores was observed at all study visits from baseline (p<0.0001). There was no significant improvement in ipsilateral subscores. A subset of patients (n=20) exhibited group-level ipsilateral-hand improvement that remained significant through all follow-ups (p<0.001). Multivariate regression analysis revealed that higher baseline scores predict better improvement in ipsilateral-hand and axial tremor. Probabilistic maps demonstrated that the lesion hotspot for axial improvement was situated more medially than that for contralateral improvement.

Conclusion: MRgFUS significantly improved axial, contralateral-hand and total tremor scores. In a subset of patients, a consistent group-level treatment effect was observed for ipsilateral-hand tremor. While ipsilateral improvement seemed to be less directly related to lesion location, a spatial relationship between lesion location and axial and contralateral improvement was observed that proved consistent with the somatotopic organisation of the ventral intermediate nucleus.

Trial registration numbers: NCT01932463, NCT01827904, and NCT02252380.


Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01932463
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02252380
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01827904