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Original research
Multimodal MRI for MRgFUS in essential tremor: post-treatment radiological markers of clinical outcome


Background MRI-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) thalamotomy is a promising non-invasive treatment option for medication-resistant essential tremor. However, it has been associated with variable efficacy and a relatively high incidence of adverse effects.

Objectives To assess the evolution of radiological findings after MRgFUS thalamotomy and to evaluate their significance for clinical outcomes.

Methods Ninety-four patients who underwent MRgFUS between 2012 and 2017 were retrospectively evaluated. Lesion characteristics were assessed on routine MRI sequences, as well as with tractography. Relationships between imaging appearance, extent of white matter tract lesioning (59/94, on a 4-point scale) and clinical outcome were investigated. Recurrence was defined as >33% loss of tremor suppression at 3 months relative to day 7.

Results Acute lesions demonstrated blood products, surrounding oedema and peripheral diffusion restriction. The extent of dentatorubrothalamic tract (DRTT) lesioning was significantly associated with clinical improvement at 1 year (t=4.32, p=0.001). Lesion size decreased over time (180.8±91.5 mm3 at day 1 vs 19.5±19.3 mm3 at 1-year post-treatment). Higher post-treatment oedema (t=3.59, p<0.001) was associated with larger lesions at 3 months. Patients with larger lesions at day 1 demonstrated reduced rates of tremor recurrence (t=2.67, p=0.019); however, lesions over 170 mm3 trended towards greater incidence of adverse effects (sensitivity=0.60, specificity=0.63). Lesion encroachment on the medial lemniscus (Sn=1.00, Sp=0.32) and pyramidal tract (Sn=1.00, Sp=0.12) were also associated with increased adverse effects incidence.

Conclusion Lesion size at day 1 predicts symptom recurrence, with fewer recurrences seen with larger lesions. Greater DRTT lesioning is associated with treatment efficacy. These findings may have implications for lesion targeting and extent.

Trial registration number NCT02252380.

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