Background: Posteroventral medial pallidotomy sometimes produces striking improvement in patients with advanced Parkinson's disease, but the studies to date have involved small numbers of patients and short-term follow-up.
Methods: Forty patients with Parkinson's disease underwent serial, detailed assessments both after drug withdrawal ("off" period) and while taking their optimal medical regimens ("on" period). All patients were examined preoperatively and 39 were examined at six months; 27 of the patients were also examined at one year, and 11 at two years.
Results: The percent improvements at six months were as follows: off-period score for overall motor function, 28 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 19 to 38 percent), with most of the improvement in the contralateral limbs; off-period score for activities of daily living, 29 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 19 to 39 percent); on-period score for contralateral dyskinesias, 82 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 72 to 91 percent); and on-period score for ipsilateral dyskinesias, 44 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 29 to 59 percent). The improvements in dyskinesias and the total scores for off-period parkinsonism, contralateral bradykinesia, and rigidity were sustained in the 11 patients examined at two years. The improvement in ipsilateral dyskinesias was lost after one year, and the improvements in postural stability and gait lasted only three to six months. Approximately half the patients who had been dependent on assistance in activities of daily living in the off period before surgery became independent after surgery. The complications of surgery were generally well tolerated, and there were no significant changes in the use of medication.
Conclusions: In late-stage Parkinson's disease, pallidotomy significantly reduces levodopa-induced dyskinesias and off-period disability. Much of the benefit is sustained at two years, although some improvements, such as those on the ipsilateral side and in axial symptoms, wane within the first year. The on-period symptoms that are resistant to dopaminergic therapy do not respond to pallidotomy.