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Research paper
Awake versus asleep deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease: a critical comparison and meta-analysis


Objective No definitive comparative studies of the efficacy of ‘awake’ deep brain stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson’s disease (PD) under local or general anaesthesia exist, and there remains significant debate within the field regarding differences in outcomes between these two techniques.

Methods We conducted a literature review and meta-analysis of all published DBS for PD studies (n=2563) on PubMed from January 2004 to November 2015. Inclusion criteria included patient number >15, report of precision and/or clinical outcomes data, and at least 6 months of follow-up. There were 145 studies, 16 of which were under general anaesthesia. Data were pooled using an inverse-variance weighted, random effects meta-analytic model for observational data.

Results There was no significant difference in mean target error between local and general anaesthesia, but there was a significantly less mean number of DBS lead passes with general anaesthesia (p=0.006). There were also significant decreases in DBS complications, with fewer intracerebral haemorrhages and infections with general anaesthesia (p<0.001). There were no significant differences in Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) Section II scores off medication, UPDRS III scores off and on medication or levodopa equivalent doses between the two techniques. Awake DBS cohorts had a significantly greater decrease in treatment-related side effects as measured by the UPDRS IV off medication score (78.4% awake vs 59.7% asleep, p=0.022).

Conclusions Our meta-analysis demonstrates that while DBS under general anaesthesia may lead to lower complication rates overall, awake DBS may lead to less treatment-induced side effects. Nevertheless, there were no significant differences in clinical motor outcomes between the two techniques. Thus, DBS under general anaesthesia can be considered at experienced centres in patients who are not candidates for traditional awake DBS or prefer the asleep alternative.

  • Parkinson’s disease/Parkinsonism
  • Surgery/Stimulation
  • Clinical trials Systematic review/meta

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