Thalamic Deep Brain Stimulation for Essential Tremor Also Reduces Voice Tremor

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Abstract

Objective

Voice tremor is a common feature of essential tremor (ET) that is difficult to treat medically and significantly affects quality of life. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the ventral intermediate nucleus (Vim) of the thalamus is effective in improving contralateral distal limb tremor and has been shown in limited studies to affect voice tremor. Our objective was to retrospectively evaluate whether Vim-DBS used to treat patients with essential motor tremor also effectively treated underlying concurrent voice tremor and assess whether particular lead locations were favorable for treating vocal tremor.

Materials and Methods

In this retrospective cohort study, patients had unilateral or bilateral lead placement and were monitored for up to 12 months. We used the Fahn–Tolosa–Marin (FTM) subscore to assess vocal tremor. Changes in vocal tremor before and after stimulation and over several sessions were assessed.

Results

Of the 77 patients who met the inclusion criteria and were treated for essential tremor, 20 (26%) patients had vocal tremor prior to stimulation. Active Vim-DBS decreased the amplitude of voice tremor by 80% (p < 0.001). The mean FTM score as 1.24 pre-operation, 1.08 post-implantation (consistent with a lesion effect), and 0.25 with stimulation. The effect magnitude was maintained at last follow-up with slight improvement over time (p < 0.05). Unilateral and bilateral stimulation resulted in similar degrees of tremor reduction. A model of the centroid of stimulation showed that Vim thalamic stimulation that is more anterior on average yielded better voice tremor control, significantly so on the left side (p < 0.05). Additionally, there was improvement in head, tongue, and face tremor scores (p < 0.05).

Conclusions

Unilateral and bilateral Vim-DBS targeted to treat the motor component of essential tremor also dramatically decreased the amplitude of voice tremor in this group of patients, suggesting a potential benefit of this treatment for affected patients.

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