Introduction: The ventrolateral (VL) nucleus of the thalamus is the commonly chosen target for deep brain stimulation (DBS) to alleviate tremor. However, it has a poor efficacy in alleviating proximal tremor and patients may develop tolerance to the action component of tremor. We performed bilateral stimulation of the caudal or motor part of the zona incerta nucleus (cZI) to determine its safety and efficacy in alleviating tremor.
Methods: 5 patients with parkinsonian tremor and 13 with a range of tremors (Holmes (HT), cerebellar (CT), essential (ET), multiple sclerosis (MS) and dystonic tremor (DT)) affecting both the proximal and distal body parts underwent MRI guided, bilateral cZI DBS. Tremor was assessed by the Fahn–Tolosa–Marin (FTM) tremor scale at baseline and at a mean follow-up of 12 months.
Results: Resting PD tremor improved by 94.8% and postural tremor by 88.2%. The total tremor score improved by 75.9% in 6 patients with ET. HT improved by 70.2%, proximal CT by 60.4% and proximal MS tremor by 57.2% in the total tremor rating score. In the single patient with DT, there was improvement in both the dystonia and the tremor. Patients required low voltages of high-frequency stimulation and did not develop tolerance to it. Stimulation-related side effects were transient.
Conclusion This prospective study shows that the cZI may be an alternative target for the treatment of tremor with DBS. In contrast to bilateral DBS of the VL nucleus, it improves all components of tremor affecting both the distal and proximal limbs as well as the axial musculature.
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Funding: PP was supported by a grant from the UK Medical Research Council (G9900797).
Competing interests: None.