Object: The aim of this study was to evaluate the long-term safety and efficacy of bilateral contemporaneous deep brain stimulation (DBS) in patients who have levodopa-responsive parkinsonism with untreatable motor fluctuations. Bilateral pallidotomy carries a high risk of corticobulbar and cognitive dysfunction. Deep brain stimulation offers new alternatives with major advantages such as reversibility of effects, minimal permanent lesions, and adaptability to individual needs, changes in medication, side effects, and evolution of the disease.
Methods: Patients in whom levodopa-responsive parkinsonism with untreatable severe motor fluctuations has been clinically diagnosed underwent bilateral pallidal magnetic resonance image-guided electrode implantation while receiving a local anesthetic. Pre- and postoperative evaluations at 3-month intervals included Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) scoring, Hoehn and Yahr staging, 24-hour self-assessments, and neuropsychological examinations. Six patients with a mean age of 55 years (mean 42-67 years), a mean duration of disease of 15.5 years (range 12-21 years), a mean "on/off' Hoehn and Yahr stage score of 3/4.2 (range 3-5), and a mean "off' time of 40% (range 20-50%) underwent bilateral contemporaneous pallidal DBS, with a minimum follow-up period lasting 24 months (range 24-30 months). The mean dose of levodopa in these patients could not be changed significantly after the procedure and pergolide was added after 12 months in five patients because of recurring fluctuations despite adjustments in stimulation parameters. All but two patients had no fluctuations until 9 months. Two of the patients reported barely perceptible fluctuations at 12 months and two at 15 months; however, two patients remain without fluctuations at 2 years. The mean improvements in the UPDRS motor score in the off time and the activities of daily living (ADL) score were more than 50%; the mean off time decreased from 40 to 10%, and the mean dyskinesia and complication of treatment scores were reduced to one-third until pergolide was introduced at 12 months. No significant improvement in "on" scores was observed. A slight worsening after 1 year was observed and three patients developed levodopa- and stimulation-resistant gait ignition failure and minimal fluctuations at 1 year. Side effects, which were controlled by modulation of stimulation, included dysarthria, dystonia, and confusion.
Conclusions: Bilateral pallidal DBS is safe and efficient in patients who have levodopa-responsive parkinsonism with severe fluctuations. Major improvements in motor score, ADL score, and off time persisted beyond 2 years after the operation, but signs of decreased efficacy started to be seen after 12 months.