In the past, stereotactic surgical intervention for Parkinson's disease was considered indicated only in those patients with active motor manifestations that were refractory to pharmacological therapy, manifestations such as tremor, rigidity, dystonia, and dyskinesia. With the reintroduction and refinement of Leksell's posteroventral pallidotomy, both akinetic and hyperkinetic symptoms are now amenable to surgical treatment. We have analyzed the results of 126 patients who underwent either unilateral (n = 58) or bilateral (n = 68) posteroventral pallidotomies. The Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale and Hoehn and Yahr Staging Scale were used for preoperative and postoperative objective assessments. Postoperative follow-up evaluation occurred initially at 1 week and subsequently at intervals between 1 and 12 months (mean = 4.5 months) after surgery. Although individual motor subscores on the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale were significantly reduced (n = 126, P < or = 0.01), the most dramatic findings were the reversal of akinetic symptoms and the elimination of dyskinesia and profound "off" periods. These clinical results, combined with intraoperative microelectrode records revealing pallidal neuronal hyperactivity, suggest a reconsideration of the pathophysiology of akinesia and point to possible mechanisms of akinesia improvement by posteroventral pallidotomy in some parkinsonian subgroups.