Magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound thalamotomy for essential tremor
Magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound is a minimally invasive surgical procedure for symptomatic treatment of Parkinson Disease. With this technology, the ventral intermediate nucleus, STN, and internal globus pallidus have been targeted for therapeutic cerebral ablation, while also minimizing the risk of hemorrhage and infection from more invasive neurosurgical procedures.
In a pilot study published in 2013, essential tremor improved in 15 patients treated with magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound thalamotomy. 1).
Clinical trials have confirmed the efficacy of focused ultrasound (FUS) thalamotomy in essential tremor, but its effectiveness and safety for managing tremor-dominant Parkinson disease (TDPD) is unknown.
It might change the way that patients with essential tremor and potentially other disorders are treated 2).
The post-treatment effectiveness was evaluated using the clinical rating scale for tremors. Thalamic MRgHIFU had substantial therapeutic effects on patients, based on MRgHIFU-mediated improvements in movement control and significant changes in brain mu rhythms. Ultrasonic thalamotomy may reduce hyper-excitable activity in the motor cortex, resulting in normalized behavioral activity after sonication treatment. Thus, non-invasive and spatially accurate MRgHIFU technology can serve as a potent therapeutic tool with broad clinical applications 3).
Magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) for thalamotomy is a safe, effective and less-invasive surgical method for treating medication-refractory essential tremor (ET). However, several issues must be resolved before clinical application of MRgFUS, including optimal patient selection and management of patients during treatment 4).
Jung et al. found different MRI pattern evolution after MRgFUS for white matter and gray matter. Their results suggest that skull characteristics, such as low skull density, should be evaluated prior to MRgFUS to successfully achieve thermal rise 5).
In a large academic medical center in the mid-Atlantic region, the Department of Neurosurgery conducted a continued access study, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, to evaluate the effectiveness of transcranial FUS thalamotomy for the treatment of medication-refractory ET.
One patient’s experience will be introduced, including discussion of evidence-based treatment options for ET and information on the nursing management of the patient undergoing FUS thalamotomy 6).
A PubMed search was performed adhering to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Studies were included if hand tremor scores (HTS), total Clinical Rating Scale for Tremor (CRST) scores, or Quality of Life in Essential Tremor Questionnaire (QUEST) scores at regular intervals following MRgFUS treatment for essential tremor were documented. Data analyses included a random effects model of meta-analysis and mixed-effects model of meta-regression. Twenty-one articles reporting HTS for 395 patients were included. Mean pre-operative HTS was 19.2 ± 5.0. Mean HTS at 3 months post-treatment was 7.4 ± 5.0 (61.5% improvement, p < 0.001). Treatment effect was mildly decreased at 36 months at 9.1 ± 5.4 (8.8% reduction). Meta-regression of time since treatment as a modifier of HTS revealed a downward trend in effect size, though this was not statistically significant (p = 0.208). Only 4 studies included follow-up ≥ 24 months. Thirteen included articles reported total CRST scores with standardized follow-up for 250 patients. Mean pre-operative total CRST score decreased by 46.2% at 3 months post-treatment (p < 0.001). Additionally, mean QUEST scores at 3 months post-treatment significantly improved compared to baseline (p < 0.001). HTS is significantly improved from baseline ≥ 24 months post-treatment and possibly ≥ 48 months post-treatment. There is a current paucity of long-term CRST and QUEST score reporting in the literature 7).
Prospective randomized clinical trials
In a double-blinded, prospective, sham-controlled randomized controlled trial of MR-guided focused ultrasound thalamotomy for treatment of tremor-dominant PD, 62% of treated patients demonstrated improvement in tremor scores from baseline to 3 months postoperatively, as compared to 22% in the sham group. There has been only one open-label trial of MR-guided focused ultrasound subthalamotomy for patients with PD, demonstrating improvements of 71% for rigidity, 36% for akinesia, and 77% for tremor 6 months after treatment. Among the two open-label trials of MR-guided focused ultrasound pallidotomy for patients with PD, dyskinesia and overall motor scores improved up to 52% and 45% at 6 months postoperatively. Although MR-guided focused ultrasound thalamotomy is now approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of parkinsonian tremor, additional high-quality randomized controlled trials are warranted and are underway to determine the safety and efficacy of MR-guided focused ultrasound subthalamotomy and pallidotomy for treatment of the cardinal features of PD. These studies will be paramount to aid clinicians to determine the ideal ablative target for individual patients. Additional work will be required to assess the durability of MR-guided focused ultrasound lesions, ideal timing of MR-guided focused ultrasound ablation in the course of PD, and the safety of performing bilateral lesions 8).
A 55-yr-old man with a history of right frontal craniotomy for resection of a colloid cyst underwent a left ventrointermedius nucleus thalamotomy through MRgFUS. The prior craniotomy flap was not excluded in the treatment plan; however, all bony defects and hardware were marked as “no-pass” regions. Clinical outcomes were collected at the 6-mo follow-up.
Transducer elements whose acoustic paths would have been altered by the craniotomy defect were turned off. Sonications reaching lesional temperatures of up to 56°C were successfully delivered. The procedure was well-tolerated, without any persistent intra-ablation or post-ablation adverse effects. The presence of a lesion was confirmed on MRI, which was associated with a significant reduction in the patient’s tremor that was sustained at the 6-mo follow-up.
This case demonstrates the safety and efficacy of MRgFUS thalamotomy in a patient with prior craniotomies and highlights our strategy for acoustic lesioning in this setting 9).
De Vloo et al. reported on an ET patient who underwent an Magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound thalamotomy but experienced tremor recurrence. They expanded the MRgFUS-induced thalamic cavity using radiofrequency (RF), with good effect on the tremor but transient sensorimotor deficits and permanent ataxia. This is the first report of a patient undergoing RF thalamotomy after an unsuccessful MRgFUS thalamotomy. As they used microelectrode recording to guide the RF thalamotomy, they could also study for the first time the electrophysiological properties of previously sonicated thalamic neurons bordering the MRgFUS-induced cavity. These neurons displayed electrophysiological characteristics identical to those recorded from nonsonicated thalamic cells in ET patients. Hence, this findings support the widespread assumption that sonication below the necrotic threshold does not permanently alter neuronal function 10).