Stimulation sites in the subthalamic nucleus and clinical improvement in Parkinson's disease: a new approach for active contact localization

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OBJECTIVE

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) is widely used in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). However, which target area of this region results in the highest antiparkinsonian efficacy is still a matter of debate. The aim of this study was to develop a more accurate methodology to locate the electrodes and the contacts used for chronic stimulation (active contacts) in the subthalamic region, and to determine the position at which stimulation conveys the greatest clinical benefit.

METHODS

The study group comprised 40 patients with PD in whom bilateral DBS electrodes had been implanted in the STN. Based on the Morel atlas, the authors created an adaptable 3D atlas that takes into account individual anatomical variability and divides the STN into functional territories. The locations of the electrodes and active contacts were obtained from an accurate volumetric assessment of the artifact using preoperative and postoperative MR images. Active contacts were positioned in the 3D atlas using stereotactic coordinates and a new volumetric method based on an ellipsoid representation created from all voxels that belong to a set of contacts. The antiparkinsonian benefit of the stimulation was evaluated by the reduction in the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale Part III (UPDRS-III) score and in the levodopa equivalent daily dose (LEDD) at 6 months. A homogeneous group classification for contact position and the respective clinical improvement was applied using a hierarchical clustering method.

RESULTS

Subthalamic stimulation induced a significant reduction of 58.0% ± 16.5% in the UPDRS-III score (p < 0.001) and 64.9% ± 21.0% in the LEDD (p < 0.001). The greatest reductions in the total and contralateral UPDRS-III scores (64% and 76%, respectively) and in the LEDD (73%) were obtained when the active contacts were placed approximately 12 mm lateral to the midline, with no influence of the position being observed in the anteroposterior and dorsoventral axes. In contrast, contacts located about 10 mm from the midline only reduced the global and contralateral UPDRS-III scores by 47% and 41%, respectively, and the LEDD by 33%. Using the ellipsoid method of location, active contacts with the highest benefit were positioned in the rostral and most lateral portion of the STN and at the interface between this subthalamic region, the zona incerta, and the thalamic fasciculus. Contacts placed in the most medial regions of the motor STN area provided the lowest clinical efficacy.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors report an accurate new methodology to assess the position of electrodes and contacts used for chronic subthalamic stimulation. Using this approach, the highest antiparkinsonian benefit is achieved when active contacts are located within the rostral and the most lateral parts of the motor region of the STN and at the interface of this region and adjacent areas (zona incerta and thalamic fasciculus).

ABBREVIATIONSAC = anterior commissure; ACPCd = ACPC distance; DBS = deep brain stimulation; FWHM = full width at half maximum; HT = height of the thalamus; LEDD = levodopa equivalent daily dose; MP-ACPC = midpoint of the AC–PC line; NIfTI = Neuroimaging Informatics Technology Initiative; PC = posterior commissure; PD = Parkinson's disease; STN = subthalamic nucleus; UPDRS-III = Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale Part III; V3 = width of the third ventricle.

OBJECTIVE

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) is widely used in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). However, which target area of this region results in the highest antiparkinsonian efficacy is still a matter of debate. The aim of this study was to develop a more accurate methodology to locate the electrodes and the contacts used for chronic stimulation (active contacts) in the subthalamic region, and to determine the position at which stimulation conveys the greatest clinical benefit.

METHODS

The study group comprised 40 patients with PD in whom bilateral DBS electrodes had been implanted in the STN. Based on the Morel atlas, the authors created an adaptable 3D atlas that takes into account individual anatomical variability and divides the STN into functional territories. The locations of the electrodes and active contacts were obtained from an accurate volumetric assessment of the artifact using preoperative and postoperative MR images. Active contacts were positioned in the 3D atlas using stereotactic coordinates and a new volumetric method based on an ellipsoid representation created from all voxels that belong to a set of contacts. The antiparkinsonian benefit of the stimulation was evaluated by the reduction in the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale Part III (UPDRS-III) score and in the levodopa equivalent daily dose (LEDD) at 6 months. A homogeneous group classification for contact position and the respective clinical improvement was applied using a hierarchical clustering method.

RESULTS

Subthalamic stimulation induced a significant reduction of 58.0% ± 16.5% in the UPDRS-III score (p < 0.001) and 64.9% ± 21.0% in the LEDD (p < 0.001). The greatest reductions in the total and contralateral UPDRS-III scores (64% and 76%, respectively) and in the LEDD (73%) were obtained when the active contacts were placed approximately 12 mm lateral to the midline, with no influence of the position being observed in the anteroposterior and dorsoventral axes. In contrast, contacts located about 10 mm from the midline only reduced the global and contralateral UPDRS-III scores by 47% and 41%, respectively, and the LEDD by 33%. Using the ellipsoid method of location, active contacts with the highest benefit were positioned in the rostral and most lateral portion of the STN and at the interface between this subthalamic region, the zona incerta, and the thalamic fasciculus. Contacts placed in the most medial regions of the motor STN area provided the lowest clinical efficacy.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors report an accurate new methodology to assess the position of electrodes and contacts used for chronic subthalamic stimulation. Using this approach, the highest antiparkinsonian benefit is achieved when active contacts are located within the rostral and the most lateral parts of the motor region of the STN and at the interface of this region and adjacent areas (zona incerta and thalamic fasciculus).

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) is an effective treatment for patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) who develop motor complications.21,40 In addition, it conveys a significant long-lasting reduction in the global severity of the parkinsonian motor state and in the daily dopaminergic treatment.39 The main factors predicting a successful outcome of STN-DBS are appropriate patient selection, the correct position of the electrode in the surgical target, and the optimal adjustment of programming and medication after surgery.4

In light of this, knowledge of the region of the STN in which chronic stimulation achieves the greatest antiparkinsonian benefit is critical. Several studies have analyzed the anatomical location of the electrodes and contacts used for chronic stimulation (active contacts), with varying results. It has been reported that the active contacts are located within the STN (mainly in its dorsolateral region),18,25,42,57,59 outside the STN (zona incerta and Forel fields H1/H2),25,49 or at the interface between the STN and its adjacent regions.9,15,18,20,35,48,56 There are also conflicting results from studies that analyzed the relationship between the active contact position and the motor benefit, as assessed by the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale Part III (UPDRS-III) and reduction in the daily dose of dopaminergic agents. Some authors observed greater motor improvement when the active contacts were located within the STN boundaries,18,20,59 whereas others obtained better outcomes using contacts outside the STN26,35,49 or did not find any association between the position of the active contacts and the clinical benefit.50 This heterogeneity is due, in part, to methodological differences among the studies, as different methods have been used to define the position of the electrodes and active contacts.5 Thus, various imaging techniques (ventriculography,9,18,49 CT,11,17 and MRI20,37,42,46) have been applied to visualize the electrode, and distinct anatomical references and methods have been implemented to assess the position of the contacts in the STN region. In addition, classical studies have used numerical coordinates referenced to the stereotactic space to define the contact position,9,15,25,42,46 which is difficult to interpret without knowledge of the patient's anatomy and because a volume is represented by a single point.

The aim of this study was to develop a new, optimized methodology to locate the electrodes and active contacts in the subthalamic region and to evaluate which active contact position provides the greatest clinical improvement. To achieve this we have 1) created an available normalized 3D atlas of the STN and its surrounding regions based on Morel's atlas,27 in which the STN has been divided into functional territories; 2) characterized the artifact created by the implanted electrode in each subject using pre- and postoperative MR images and referenced this artifact to the created atlas; 3) positioned the active contacts in this atlas using a classic stereotactic method and a new tridimensional representation; and 4) evaluated the location of the active contacts with the highest antiparkinsonian benefit using a clustering methodology.

Methods

Patients

The study group comprised 40 consecutive patients with PD in whom electrodes for chronic stimulation (DBS Lead Model 3389, Medtronic) had been bilaterally implanted in the STN between 2007 and 2011. All patients fulfilled the UK Parkinson's Disease Society Brain Bank clinical diagnostic criteria.19 The University Clinic of Navarra Ethics Committee for Medical Research approved the study, and all patients provided their informed consent before taking part.

Clinical Evaluation

Patients were evaluated preoperatively OFF medication and 6 months after surgery OFF medication and under chronic stimulation (ON stimulation). The OFF-medication condition was defined as being when the patients had refrained from taking their antiparkinsonian medication for at least 12 hours, or 24 hours for prolonged release formulations. The global motor state was assessed using the motor section of the UPDRS-III. Contralateral tremor, bradykinesia, and rigidity (items 20–26 of UPDRS-III) were also used for assessment of the efficacy of each electrode in the contralateral hemibody. Dopaminergic treatment was assessed using the levodopa equivalent daily dose (LEDD).10

Surgery

An image fusion procedure (MRI and CT), routinely carried out by our group, was used to obtain the stereotactic coordinates of the STN.13,41 An MR image of the brain was obtained in each patient on the day before surgery. On the day of surgery, the patient was administered local anesthesia, and the Cosman-Robert-Wells frame (Radionics) was put in place. A CT scan of the brain was then obtained, and the CT image data were fused with the MRI data using BrainLab software (iPlan Stereotaxy 2.6). The coordinates for the STN were determined by its direct visualization on a T2-weighted MR image in the axial plane and by indirect targeting based on the midpoint of the anterior commissure (AC)–posterior commissure (PC) line (MP-ACPC), with the target placed 4 mm below and 12 mm lateral to the midline and 2–3 mm posterior to the MP-ACPC. The motor region of the STN was defined intraoperatively by microrecording (200- to 600-KΩ platinum/iridium FHC microelectrodes) and microstimulation, and an electrode was subsequently placed at the selected coordinates in the STN. The electrode, which had 4 active contacts (0, 1, 2, and 3 from ventral to dorsal, each 1.5 mm in height and spaced at 0.5 mm intervals; total length 7.5 mm), was placed with the most ventral contact (contact 0) on the ventral part of the nucleus. After clinical testing to verify that stimulation yielded antiparkinsonian efficacy and no adverse effects, the electrode was fixed with a bur hole ring and cap and connected to percutaneous connectors with extension wires that exited through a small incision in the skin. Subsequently, a similar procedure was undertaken in the other hemisphere. A few days later, a second surgery was performed under general anesthesia to implant the Kinetra pulse generator (Model 7428, Medtronic) in an abdominal pocket and implant the lead extension.

Preoperative and Postoperative MR Image Acquisition

Before surgery, a high-resolution, T1-weighted, 1.5T MRI study (Magnetom Symphony Tim; Siemens) was performed in each patient using the following specifications: magnetization-prepared rapid gradient-echo of 176 slices, TR 1910 msec, TE 3.53 msec, TI 1100 msec, flip angle 10º, bandwidth 130 Hz, FOV 256 mm, voxel size 1 × 1 × 1 mm, TA 3:56 minutes.

Postoperative MRI was conducted within 48 hours after the surgery (T1-weighted parameters limited to a specific absorption rate of 0.4 W/kg or less).

Creation of a 3D Atlas of the Subthalamic Region

A 3D atlas of the subthalamic region was created based on sagittal, axial, and coronal slices from the Morel atlas.27 This atlas is positioned within the AC–PC stereotactic space and is based on postmortem examination of stereo-tactically cut thalamic blocks from 2 normal human brains (coronal and sagittal slices were obtained from 1 subject with an intercommissural distance of 26 mm, and axial slices were obtained from another subject with an intercommissural distance of 25 mm). To develop our 3D atlas, we created and defined a stereotactic volume (mediolateral [X coordinate] from −20 to 20 mm, anteroposterior [Y coordinate] from −13 to 13 mm, and dorsoventral [Z coordinate] from −8 to 10 mm) with respect to the intercommissural line and with the origin at the midpoint of this line. This volume delimited the structural information of the anatomical regions considered in the subthalamic area.

Three 3D atlases (axial, sagittal, and coronal) of each anatomical region were created based on axial, sagittal, and coronal slices using the Neuroimaging Informatics Technology Initiative (NIfTI) format. To achieve this, 20 axial slices (from Z = −8.1 to 9 mm, 0.9 mm interslice distance), 27 coronal slices (from Y = −13 to 13 mm, 1 mm interslice distance), and 18 sagittal slices (from X = 3 to 20 mm, 1 mm interslice distance) were delineated using Adobe Photoshop CS6 and saved independently as a TIFF file. Each 3D NIfTI atlas was built with a voxel size of 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 mm, obtained by a nearest neighbor interpolation, and with the origin located in the MP-ACPC.

To obtain an integrated atlas for each anatomical region, the three 3D atlases were normalized to a common space that was created to solve the mismatch produced by the anatomical differences of the 2 subjects employed to create the original Morel atlas (Fig. 1A). Three anatomical landmarks, based on work done by Nowinski et al.,31 were used to define this space: the AC–PC distance (ACPCd), the height of the thalamus (HT), and the width of the third ventricle (V3). For the normalized space, the average value of each of these parameters for all the patients was used: ACPCdw = 27 mm, V3w = 5 mm, and HTw = 18 mm. Each voxel from the three 3D atlases was scaled anteroposteriorly proportionally to the ACPCdw, dorsoventrally proportionally to the HTw, and laterally compensated against V3w using the following formulas: x = x′ + V3w − V3o / 2 if x ≤ 0, x′ = x − V3w − V3o / 2 if x > 0, y′ = y · ACPCdo / ACPCdw, and z′ = z · HTo /HTw, where ACPCdo is the corresponding ACPCd of each Morel atlas subject (axial 26 mm, coronal and sagittal 25 mm); V3o is the corresponding V3 of each Morel atlas subject (axial 8 mm, coronal and sagittal 3 mm); HTo is the corresponding HT of each Morel atlas subject (axial 14 mm, coronal and sagittal 19 mm); and x′, y′, z′ and x, y, z are points in the native space and atlas space, respectively.

FIG. 1.
FIG. 1.

A: Image obtained from the Morel atlas showing overlap of the 3 STN atlas (axial, sagittal, and coronal) with (right) and without (left) a normalization process. B: Images showing the anatomical areas included in the developed atlas. C: Tridimensional visualization images of the functional subdivisions of the STN. Do = dorsal; L = left; Ro = rostral.

After the normalization process to the common space, the 3 atlases were combined and smoothed (Gaussian filter of 0.6 mm full width at half maximum [FWHM]) to obtain the definitive atlas for each anatomical region. Because the Morel atlas does not provide bilateral anatomical information, we applied a process of reflection over the intercommissural plane to obtain the anatomical regions of the contralateral hemisphere (Fig. 1B).

Subdivision of the STN Into Functional Territories

Based on its functional territories, the STN was divided into 2 rostral thirds and a caudal third along the Y axis.14 Furthermore, the 2 rostral thirds were subdivided into a medial third and 2 lateral thirds. The limbic region comprised the medial portion of the rostral two-thirds, and the associative region comprised the ventral part of the lateral portion of the rostral two-thirds. The motor area was the largest region and was divided into 2 parts: the lateral portion of the rostral two-thirds that comprised the rostral motor region and the caudal third that was the caudal motor region (Fig. 1C).

Location of the Contacts of the Electrode

Image Processing

The preoperative and postoperative MR images were converted to NIfTI format. The postoperative MR image (post-MRI) was linearly coregistered to the preoperative MR image (pre-MRI) using the Statistical Parametric Mapping-8 linear registration tool. The resultant image was nonlinearly registered to pre-MRI using the Image Registration Toolkit and termed rpost-MRI.

To determine the location of the electrode, all images were processed using custom-designed software developed in Matlab 7.7, with modification of the procedure.17 A semiautomated method was used to reorient rpost-MRI and pre-MRI to the AC–PC stereotactic space. First, the anterior and posterior commissures were manually positioned and MP-ACPC was set as the origin of the images. Volumes were automatically rotated about the orthogonal axis to align the AC–PC plane with the X–Y plane, and were subsequently manually rotated to align the interhemispheric plane with the Y–Z plane. To facilitate the computational processes, realigned images were cropped in each coordinate, X −36:36 mm, Y −34:34 mm, and Z −18:28 mm, and the obtained volumes were up-sampled to a voxel size of 0.2 × 0.2 × 0.2 mm using a B-splines interpolation method. The tridimensional image of the artifact induced by the electrode was obtained by subtracting the pre-MRI and post-MRI and was saved as a NIfTI image (Fig. 2A).

FIG. 2.
FIG. 2.

Schematic representation of the procedures undertaken on the images obtained in preoperative and postoperative MRI and the transformation steps to obtain the position of the contacts using the trajectory and the modeling of the artifact. A: Flowchart for the image processing. B: Tridimensional image of the artifact induced by the electrode, the trajectory angles (pitch and roll, insets), and the initial point of the trajectory. C: Model of the artifact induced by the electrode based on the procedure described previously by Pollo et al.36 (double-headed arrow distances are a = 1.4 mm, b = 1.16 mm, c = 2.3 mm, d = 1.5 mm, e = 0.5 mm, f = 1.27 mm). D: Model of the artifact positioned in the AC–PC space. E: Example of the postoperative T1-weighted MR images (inset) obtained in 1 patient on which the model of the artifact created by the implanted electrodes has been superimposed.

Position of the Contacts

The artifact of the electrode was smoothed with a Gaussian filter of 1 mm FWHM to avoid small spurious artifacts and was thresholded at 0.6 of maximal value. The trajectory angles of each electrode (pitch and roll) were then obtained from the parameters of the line that runs along the artifact using a robust regression method. The initial point of the trajectory was the intersection point between the line and the tridimensional artifact (Fig. 2B). The model of the artifact induced by the electrode was subsequently created, based on the procedure described previously by Pollo et al.,36 and implemented as a NIfTI image containing 512 slices in the axial plane, with a voxel size of 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 mm (Fig. 2C). The model artifact was positioned in the AC–PC space using the pitch and roll angles and the initial point of the trajectory (Fig. 2D). A different intensity value was assigned to each contact of the electrode to obtain the stereotactic coordinates of all its points, the mean value of which gave the AC–PC coordinates of the centroid for each individual contact (Fig. 2E).

Finally, the coordinates of the centroid of each contact were spatially normalized to the atlas space utilizing the same space normalization and using the ACPCd, V3, and HT of the corresponding patient. A tridimensional reconstruction of the contacts was created from the normalized coordinates of the centroid and the pitch and roll angles of the artifact trajectory; this was saved as a NIfTI image.

Representation of the Position of the Contacts

Two complementary methods were used to represent the location of the contacts. In addition to the numerical method based on the stereotactic coordinates (X, Y, Z) of the centroid of each contact, a volumetric representation to display the region where a group of contacts were located was undertaken. This volumetric location tool is based on the ellipsoid of inertia created from all voxels that belong to a set of contacts. This model allows the tridimensional localization of a group of contacts given more comprehensive information than a single value corresponding to the mean coordinate of the 3 axes in the space.

Statistical Analysis

To compare the localization of the active contacts in both hemispheres, we performed a Student t-test for each numerical coordinate (X, Y, Z).

To analyze the relationship between the best clinical efficacy and the position of the active contacts, a correlation study between the percentage reduction of the UPDRS-III score and LEDD and the stereotactic coordinates of the active contacts was undertaken using the Pearson coefficient. In addition, we developed a homogeneous group classification for contact position and clinical improvement using a 2-step hierarchical clustering method. Four features composed vectors: X, Y, Z coordinates for the active contact and the corresponding percentage reduction for each variable (UPDRS-III total or contralateral to each electrode and medication reduction). The analysis was implemented to obtain 2 different groups of active contacts for each clinical improvement parameter (reduction in UPDRS-III scores and LEDD). Validation of this classification was performed by using a Student t-test, where a p value less than 0.05 was considered statistically significant. All statistical analyses were carried out using SPSS for Windows, version 15.0 (SPSS Inc.)

Results

Forty patients and 80 electrodes were included in the study. Monopolar stimulation using a single contact was applied in 61 nuclei (78%). Bipolar stimulation (11 nuclei, 14% of the electrodes) was used to avoid side effects, which mainly involved dysarthria, capsular stimulation with contralateral facial contraction and dyskinesias, or because a higher motor benefit was encountered. Double monopolar stimulation was applied in 6 nuclei (8%).

As our objective was to identify the position of the active contacts associated with the highest antiparkinsonian efficacy, we only analyzed electrodes programmed in a monopolar configuration (monopolar STN-DBS stimulation and, therefore, included patients with at least 1 electrode with such programming). One of the 40 patients was excluded on this basis because both electrodes were programmed in a bipolar configuration. The demographic and clinical features of the patients are presented in Table 1.

TABLE 1.

Demographic and clinical data for PD patients with at least 1 electrode programmed in a monopolar configuration*

CharacteristicValues (n = 39)
M/F, %62.5/37.5
Age at surgery, yrs58.46 ± 8.88
Evolution of PD, yrs11.94 ± 4.97
Postop follow-up, mos9.70 ± 3.74
UPDRS III score
  Preop OFF medication40.27 ± 13.19
  Preop ON medication12.57 ± 7.38
  Postop OFF medication–ON stimulation17.03 ± 8.73
LEDD, mg
  Preop1417.07 ± 593.12
  Postop445.43 ± 269.03

Values are mean ± SD unless otherwise indicated.

The dorsal contacts (Contacts 2 and 3) of the electrode were the most frequently used (67%–68%) for chronic stimulation in both hemispheres. The mean monopolar stimulation parameters were 2.86 V, 67.9 μs, 169.18 Hz and did not differ between the hemispheres (p = 0.92, 0.85, and 0.65 for voltage, frequency, and pulse width, respectively) (Table 2).

TABLE 2.

Programming parameters and stereotactic coordinates of active contacts in PD patients with at least 1 electrode programmed in a monopolar configuration*

VariableRight STN (n = 33 contacts)Left STN (n = 28 contacts)
Voltage, V2.86 ± 0.692.84 ± 0.59
Frequency, Hz170.75 ± 19.65167.32 ± 21.66
Pulse width, μsec67.27 ± 15.0668.57 ± 16.04
Coordinates, mm
  X11.03 ± 1.46−11.15 ± 1.68
  Y−0.88 ± 2.11−1.11 ± 1.70
  Z−1.45 ± 1.60−1.13 ± 1.50

Values are mean ± SD.

Coordinates are in reference to the midcommissural point.

Location of Active Contacts

Numerical Location

The centroids of all active contacts were positioned in the following coordinates: X 11.08 ± 1.55, Y –0.98 ± 1.93, Z –1.3 ± 1.54 mm (mean values referenced to the MP-ACPC line) without significant differences between hemispheres (X coordinate p = 0.75, Y coordinate p = 0.64, Z coordinate p = 0.42) (Table 2).

Ellipsoid Group Location

On both sides, active contacts were mostly placed in the rostral, lateral, and dorsal portions of the STN, which correspond to the motor region, and at the interface between this subthalamic region and the zona incerta and thalamic fasciculus (Fig. 3).

FIG. 3.
FIG. 3.

Images showing volumetric localization of the active contacts in the subthalamic area using the ellipsoid method. Ca = caudal; La = lateral; Me = medial; Ve = ventral.

Clinical Improvement

Because the numerical location of the active contacts and the programming parameters did not differ between the 2 hemispheres, data from both sides were grouped for this analysis.

Linear Correlation

Global Motor Improvement

Only patients with bilateral monopolar stimulation (28 contacts) were used for the assessment of global motor improvement, revealing a significant reduction of 58% ± 16.5% in the UPDRS-III score (p < 0.001) and 64.9% ± 21% in the LEDD (p < 0.001). Regarding complications, 4 patients had hypophonia, 5 had dyskinesias, and 4 had dysarthria that were always mild in severity.

Using the numerical representation, the mediolateral coordinate (X) correlated with the reduction in the UPDRS-III score (R2 = 0.31, p < 0.001), indicating that the most laterally placed contacts induced a more pronounced motor improvement. No correlation was found between the UP-DRS-III score improvement and the Y or Z coordinates (R2 = 0.002 for both) or between the LEDD reduction and the 3 coordinates (X coordinate R2 = 0.06, Y coordinate R2 = 0.04, Z coordinate R2 = 0.0003).

Contralateral Motor Improvement

Stimulation induced a significant reduction in the contralateral UPDRS-III score of 63.1% ± 24% (p < 0.001). There was a correlation between the magnitude of this reduction and the X coordinate (R2 = 0.22, p < 0.05), but this was not observed with the other coordinates (Y coordinate R2 = 0.04, Z coordinate R2 = 0.003).

Clustering Classification

The clustering method was also applied to classify patients who displayed the highest and lowest clinical benefit. For the global motor improvement (reduction in total UPDRS-III and in LEDD), an identifier of each patient was included in the vector for cluster analysis to guarantee that a pair of contacts from the same patient was included in the same cluster. Two clusters were obtained for the reduction in global UPDRS-III, contralateral UPDRS-III, and LEDD (Table 3).

TABLE 3.

Stereotactic coordinates of the position of the active contacts of the clusters with high and low clinical benefit*

BenefitCoordinatesReduction (%)
XYZ
Global UPDRS III score
  High (n = 16 contacts)12.22 ± 1.01−0.63 ± 1.55−1.23 ± 1.1264.21 ± 6.65
  Low (n = 12 contacts)10.09 ± 1.52−1.04 ± 0.91−1.08 ± 1.4447.06 ± 17.90
  p value<0.001NSNS<0.05
LEDD, mg
  High (n = 20 contacts)11.85 ± 1.13−1.20 ± 1.84−1.54 ± 1.4872.97 ± 14.87
  Low (n = 8 contacts)10.51 ± 1.32−2.02 ± 1.78−1.11 ± 1.5033.11 ± 12.46
  p value<0.05NSNS<0.001
Contralateral UPDRS III score
  High (n = 24 contacts)12.03 ± 0.89−1.08 ± 1.80−1.46 ± 1.2576.31 ± 16.16
  Low (n = 13 contacts)9.79 ± 1.42−0.29 ± 1.02−1.06 ± 1.5341.82 ± 20.92
  p value<0.001NSNS<0.001
Range, mm6.934.844.83

NS = not statistically significant.

Values are mean ± SD unless otherwise indicated.

Numerical Analysis

Active contacts corresponding to the cluster with the highest reduction in both the UPDRS-III score (64% and 76% for the global and contralateral improvement, respectively) and LEDD (73%) were located approximately 12 mm lateral to the midline, whereas those providing the least benefit were around 10 mm from the midline. No differences were observed in the anteroposterior or dorsoventral axes (Table 3).

Ellipsoid Group Location

Ellipsoids corresponding to the cluster of contacts associated with the highest improvement considering both the UPDRS-III total and contralateral and the LEDD reduction were placed in the rostral and lateral portions of the STN and at the interface between this region and the zona incerta and thalamic fasciculus. In contrast, active contacts associated with the lowest benefit were located in the most medial regions of the motor area of the STN (Fig. 4).

FIG. 4.
FIG. 4.

Images showing anatomical areas and volumetric localization of the active contacts of the clusters with high (dots) and low (stripes) clinical efficacy for each clinical variable.

Discussion

In this study, we describe a new and detailed methodology for the anatomical localization of contacts used for chronic subthalamic stimulation and identify the region in which they provide the maximum antiparkinsonian benefit. This methodology is based on the location of the contacts obtained from the artifact created by the implanted electrode in a normalized space of a newly created detailed 3D atlas of the subthalamic region, allowing more accurate stereotactic placement. In addition, the position of the active contacts was subsequently correlated with the clinical benefit to PD patients using a clustering analysis. We found that a lateral position (around 12 mm from the midline) of the active contact in the subthalamic region is associated with a greater reduction in the UPDRS-III score and the daily dopaminergic dose. Moreover, we used an ellipsoid representation to provide a volumetric localization of the active contacts, revealing that the greatest improvement was achieved when they were placed in the most rostral part of the motor region of the STN and at the interface between this section of the STN and the zona incerta and thalamic fasciculus.

Previous studies analyzing the positions of the active contacts in the STN and their relationship with clinical efficacy have produced heterogeneous results, in part due to methodological issues such as5 1) the small volume of the anatomical structures involved (STN and surrounding areas); 2) the fact that methods for the localization and representation of the contact positions do not take into consideration the individual variability in STN anatomical position and size; 3) the different imaging techniques and postprocessing methodologies used to obtain the location of the contacts; and 4) the use of nonadjustable atlases to position the contacts.

3D Atlas

The location of active contacts has mostly been projected on 2D atlases,27,44,47 using the intercommissural line as a reference.33 More recently, different 3D approaches have been developed to obtain space-normalized probabilistic atlases12,32 or adaptive 3D atlases from histological data.3,22,23,43,54 However, these atlases are not freely available or have been developed in uncommon image formats. Our new 3D atlas helps to overcome these issues. Moreover, most of the atlases used in previous studies did not consider the high interindividual variability in STN anatomical position, which depends upon the ACPCd, the HT,31 and the V3.7,58 We have addressed this problem by developing a new approach to correct this variability using a process of normalization of these anatomical marks based on a previous procedure.31 Our atlas was developed in an image format commonly used in neuroimaging (NIfTI) that allows the superposition of volumetric information regarding active contacts on a 3D stereotactic atlas of the human basal ganglia based on the Morel atlas. It should be noted that a similar 3D atlas has been previously developed22 and used to evaluate the position of the active contacts in patients with PD.43 However, we have developed an easy normalization method to allow individual (atlas in a subject's space) or group analysis (atlas in a common space to which all contacts of a group of subjects are normalized) in an extensively used image format.

To have a more precise location of the active contacts within the subthalamic region, we divided the 3D STN atlas into 3 functional regions (limbic, associative, and motor) based on previous animal anatomical and physiological studies.1,14,16,34,52 To gain further accuracy we also divided the motor region, which is the largest area and that which is a priori most involved in the clinical outcome of STN-DBS, into 2 equal regions along the rostrocaudal axis. The main strengths of this new atlas are its adaptability and the functional division of the STN in the NIfTI format.

Contact Location

There are several technical difficulties in the identification and anatomical placement of active contacts in the subthalamic area: 1) the STN is not visualized on T1-weighted MR images because nuclear borders are not well delineated, in part due to the MR sequence used to avoid heating the electrode; 2) the electrode induces a distortion in the postoperative MR images, and, therefore, the anatomical definition of the STN is blurred;55 and 3) the artifact created by the electrode and contacts is larger than the actual device.36 In addition, single numerical values have been used until now to express the anatomical position of the active contacts in the STN region, reducing a volume to a point and, therefore, oversimplifying the representation of the contacts.30 This is a critical limitation to knowing the exact location of the contacts. We have addressed this issue by applying a new method using ellipsoids of inertia created from all the voxels that belong to a set of contacts, which provides volumetric localization of a group of contacts. To do this, we have developed an easy and novel methodology for electrode localization, fusing pre- and postoperative MR images to allow a volumetric location of each contact, compatible with a 3D atlas through a normalization procedure, thereby improving previous studies based on a 3D digitalized atlas28,54 registered in an MR image.

Interestingly, in this paper, the ellipsoid representation revealed that the active contacts were located in the rostral section of the motor region in the STN and at the interface between this area and the zona incerta and thalamic fasciculus. Most of the previous studies using the classical method showed that the active contacts were anatomically located at coordinates compatible with the lateral and dorsal portions of the STN, which corresponds to the rostral motor region of the nucleus in our atlas classification.9,15,18,48–50,55 However, other groups found that active contacts were in areas adjacent to the STN such as the zona incerta, Forel's fields, and thalamic fasciculus.6,20,25,26,57,59 A recent review concluded that most (60%) of the active contacts were located within the STN or at the interface between the STN and overlying structures (zona incerta and Forel's fields), whereas 40% were outside the STN.5 Nonetheless, interpreting these results is very difficult due to discrepancies between series of studies, and not all groups used a process to minimize the anatomical differences between subjects. In our study, the use of an adaptive 3D atlas and a volumetric placement that shows the tridimensional location of a group of contacts based in the ellipsoid created from all the voxels belonging to a set of contacts allowed us to conclude that the active contacts were placed within the lateral and dorsal regions of the STN and at the interface between the STN and the zona incerta. Moreover, our methodology could provide an easy way to standardize results to allow global comparisons between different series and groups.

Correlation of Location of the Active Contacts and Clinical Improvement

Previous studies have mostly focused on the improvement in the contralateral UPDRS-III score produced by unilateral stimulation.18,20,26,49,59 However, it is well known that the clinical outcome of bilaterally applied STN-DBS is not simply the additive effect of each electrode on the contralateral side.8 Our aim was to obtain more general information about the best localization of bilaterally active contacts to achieve global motor improvement as measured by a reduction in the total UPDRS-III score and LEDD.

One important point in this study is the use of a clustering methodology for the correlation analysis between the clinical improvement and the active contact position to avoid arbitrary cut-off points for clinical variables used to classify patients into high or low STN-DBS benefit. Based on a previous report,23 we employed a method of clustering for the 3 parameters of clinical improvement (UPDRS-III total and hemicorporal score and LEDD) to obtain 2 different groups for each variable. Our analysis revealed that the lateral placement of active contacts induced a greater clinical improvement as assessed by the UPDRS-III (64.21% global and 76.31% hemicorporal) and LEDD (72.97%), whereas an anteroposterior or dorsoventral location did not seem to affect the clinical outcome. In contrast, a medial position was associated with a low benefit (UPDRS-III 47.06% global and 41.83% hemicorporal, LEDD 33.11%), indicating that laterality is the most important parameter for successful STN-DBS in patients with PD. This is an interesting aspect of our result as, a priori, the anteroposterior and dorsoventral coordinates may be as important as the mediolateral coordinate. We have analyzed in detail this particular aspect and found that the range of the X coordinate (6.93 mm) was larger than the ranges for the Y (4.84 mm) and Z (4.83 mm) coordinates (Table 3). Combining these ranges with the atlas of the subthalamic region, we observed that, from a functional point of view, the possible positions in the range of the Y or Z coordinates do not imply a relevant change, as they are mostly located in the motor region of the STN, zona incerta, and thalamic fasciculus. In contrast, variations in the position of the contacts along the range of the X coordinate imply that the most medial contacts lay outside the motor area, with a consequent reduction of clinical efficacy. Accordingly, the lack of correlation of the clinical parameters with the Z and Y coordinates could be due to this fact, which is probably related to the surgical methodology and the target we used.

These results are in keeping with the findings of most previous studies that evaluated the reduction of medication or the UPDRS improvement, which demonstrated better results when active contacts were placed within the dorsal9,18,20,48,49,59 and the dorsolateral23,37,45,46 regions of the STN, the adjacent Forel's field, and zona incerta,35,42 or in the intermediate-associative region of the STN.51 However, Weise et al.50 did not find any association between the position of the active contacts and the clinical improvement. This discrepancy may be explained by the different adjustment of the anatomical differences between subjects and the different definition for the functional regions. Interestingly, similar to our findings, no association between the position in the dorsoventral axis of the STN and clinical improvement was obtained in another study.53 Our findings support the importance of targeting the dorsolateral portion of the STN as this is the motor region defined by both physiological (single unit recordings during movements)38,52 and anatomical studies which have demonstrated that this region receives projections from the supplementary motor cortex and primary motor cortex.2,24,29,34

In spite of the aforementioned strengths of this study, some limitations need to be pointed out. Obviously, our methodology for contact localization is based on a model of the artifact created by the electrode in MRI; it has to be assumed that a model does not perfectly reflect the reality of the situation but is a good way to predict a phenomenon that cannot be measured directly. On the other hand, the subdivision of the STN implemented in our atlas is based on anatomo-functional studies delimiting the motor, associative, and limbic territories, which have been recently corroborated in humans in an MRI study using probabilistic diffusion tractography.1 However, certain mismatching between the delimitation of these territories in the atlas applied to the MR images and the real territory of the STN cannot be excluded.

Conclusions

In the present study, we have developed a new methodology to more accurately define the position of the active contacts of the electrodes implanted in the STN in patients with PD. This method is based on a volumetric characterization of the electrode artifact obtained from pre- and postoperative MR images combined with a 3D atlas normalized to a common space, thereby providing higher anatomical precision and allowing a better matching of contact position and clinical outcome. Using this approach combined with a tridimensional representation of contact location, we have shown that, in our cohort of patients, active contacts that provided a very high antiparkinsonian benefit were located within the rostral and most lateral parts of the motor region of the STN and at the interface of this region and adjacent areas (zona incerta and thalamic fasciculus). Further studies using this approach to define the target for electrode implantation in patients with PD are therefore warranted.

Acknowledgments

We acknowledge Rafael Gonzalez-Redondo and Pedro Clavero for their assistance with the neurological assessments. This study was funded, in part, by the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red sobre Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas (CIBERNED), Spain.

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Disclosures

Dr. Garcia-Garcia reports receiving grants from CIBERNED. Dr. Guridi reports receiving honoraria for lecturing in courses organized by Medtronic. Dr. Obeso reports receiving honoraria for lecturing in meetings organized by GSK, Lundbeck, and UCB (Spain); TEVA-Neuroscience (USA); Boehringer Ingelheim (Mexico); and receiving grants/research funding from the Spanish Science and Education Ministry and European Union (REPLACES). Dr. Rodríguez-Oroz reports receiving payment from UCB, Lundbeck, Abbvie, and Boston Scientific for lectures, travel, and accommodations to attend scientific meetings; receiving grants from CIBERNED, the Government of Basque Country and Guipúzcoa, the Spanish Health Institute, and Era-net.

Author Contributions

Conception and design: Rodríguez-Oroz, Garcia-Garcia. Acquisition of data: Rodríguez-Oroz, Guridi, Toledo, Alegre. Analysis and interpretation of data: Rodríguez-Oroz, Garcia-Garcia, Guridi, Toledo. Drafting the article: Rodríguez-Oroz, Garcia-Garcia, Guridi. Critically revising the article: all authors. Reviewed submitted version of manuscript: all authors. Approved the final version of the manuscript on behalf of all authors: Rodríguez-Oroz. Statistical analysis: Garcia-Garcia. Administrative/technical/material support: Rodríguez-Oroz, Garcia-Garcia, Guridi, Obeso. Study supervision: Rodríguez-Oroz, Guridi.

Supplemental Information

Previous Presentations

Portions of this work were presented in 2013 at the 16th Quadrennial Meeting of the World Society of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery (WSSFN) (May 27–30, Tokyo, Japan).

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

Article Information

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online February 5, 2016; DOI: 10.3171/2015.9.JNS15868.

Correspondence María C. Rodríguez-Oroz, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Donostia, and Neuroscience Unit, BioDonostia Research Institute, San Sebastián 20014, Spain. email: maria. rodriguezoroz@biodonostia.org.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

Headings

Figures

  • View in gallery

    A: Image obtained from the Morel atlas showing overlap of the 3 STN atlas (axial, sagittal, and coronal) with (right) and without (left) a normalization process. B: Images showing the anatomical areas included in the developed atlas. C: Tridimensional visualization images of the functional subdivisions of the STN. Do = dorsal; L = left; Ro = rostral.

  • View in gallery

    Schematic representation of the procedures undertaken on the images obtained in preoperative and postoperative MRI and the transformation steps to obtain the position of the contacts using the trajectory and the modeling of the artifact. A: Flowchart for the image processing. B: Tridimensional image of the artifact induced by the electrode, the trajectory angles (pitch and roll, insets), and the initial point of the trajectory. C: Model of the artifact induced by the electrode based on the procedure described previously by Pollo et al.36 (double-headed arrow distances are a = 1.4 mm, b = 1.16 mm, c = 2.3 mm, d = 1.5 mm, e = 0.5 mm, f = 1.27 mm). D: Model of the artifact positioned in the AC–PC space. E: Example of the postoperative T1-weighted MR images (inset) obtained in 1 patient on which the model of the artifact created by the implanted electrodes has been superimposed.

  • View in gallery

    Images showing volumetric localization of the active contacts in the subthalamic area using the ellipsoid method. Ca = caudal; La = lateral; Me = medial; Ve = ventral.

  • View in gallery

    Images showing anatomical areas and volumetric localization of the active contacts of the clusters with high (dots) and low (stripes) clinical efficacy for each clinical variable.

References

  • 1

    Accolla EADukart JHelms GWeiskopf NKherif FLutti A: Brain tissue properties differentiate between motor and limbic basal ganglia circuits. Hum Brain Mapp 35:508350922014

  • 2

    Aravamuthan BRMuthusamy KAStein JFAziz TZJohansen-Berg H: Topography of cortical and subcortical connections of the human pedunculopontine and subthalamic nuclei. Neuroimage 37:6947052007

  • 3

    Bardinet EBhattacharjee MDormont DPidoux BMalandain GSchüpbach M: A three-dimensional histological atlas of the human basal ganglia. II Atlas deformation strategy and evaluation in deep brain stimulation for Parkinson disease. J Neurosurg 110:2082192009

  • 4

    Bronstein JMTagliati MAlterman RLLozano AMVolkmann JStefani A: Deep brain stimulation for Parkinson disease: an expert consensus and review of key issues. Arch Neurol 68:1652011

  • 5

    Caire FRanoux DGuehl DBurbaud PCuny E: A systematic review of studies on anatomical position of electrode contacts used for chronic subthalamic stimulation in Parkinson's disease. Acta Neurochir (Wien) 155:164716542013

  • 6

    Cintas PSimonetta-Moreau MOry FBrefel-Courbon CFabre NChaynes P: Deep brain stimulation for parkinson's disease: correlation between intraoperative subthalamic nucleus neurophysiology and most effective contacts. Stereotact Funct Neurosurg 80:1081132003

  • 7

    Daniluk SG Davies KEllias SANovak PNazzaro JM: Assessment of the variability in the anatomical position and size of the subthalamic nucleus among patients with advanced Parkinson's disease using magnetic resonance imaging. Acta Neurochir (Wien) 152:2012102010

  • 8

    Germano IMGracies JMWeisz DJTse WKoller WCOlanow CW: Unilateral stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus in Parkinson disease: a double-blind 12-month evaluation study. J Neurosurg 101:36422004

  • 9

    Godinho FThobois SMagnin MGuenot MPolo GBenatru I: Subthalamic nucleus stimulation in Parkinson's disease: anatomical and electrophysiological localization of active contacts. J Neurol 253:134713552006

  • 10

    Grosset KNeedleman FMacphee GGrosset D: Switching from ergot to nonergot dopamine agonists in Parkinson's disease: a clinical series and five-drug dose conversion table. Mov Disord 19:137013742004

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    Guehl DEdwards RCuny EBurbaud PRougier AModolo J: Statistical determination of the optimal subthalamic nucleus stimulation site in patients with Parkinson disease. J Neurosurg 106:1011102007

  • 12

    Guo SZhuang PHallett MZheng ZZhang YLi J: Subthalamic deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease: correlation between locations of oscillatory activity and optimal site of stimulation. Parkinsonism Relat Disord 19:1091142013

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    Guridi JRodriguez-Oroz MCLozano AMMoro EAlbanese ANuttin B: Targeting the basal ganglia for deep brain stimulation in Parkinson's disease. Neurology 55:12 Suppl 6S21S282000

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    Hamani CSaint-Cyr JAFraser JKaplitt MLozano AM: The subthalamic nucleus in the context of movement disorders. Brain 127:4202004

  • 15

    Hamel WFietzek UMorsnowski ASchrader BHerzog JWeinert D: Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus in Parkinson's disease: evaluation of active electrode contacts. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 74:103610462003

  • 16

    Haynes WIHaber SN: The organization of prefrontal-subthalamic inputs in primates provides an anatomical substrate for both functional specificity and integration: implications for basal ganglia models and deep brain stimulation. J Neurosci 33:480448142013

  • 17

    Hebb AOMiller KJ: Semi-automatic stereotactic coordinate identification algorithm for routine localization of Deep Brain Stimulation electrodes. J Neurosci Methods 187:1141192010

  • 18

    Herzog JFietzek UHamel WMorsnowski ASteigerwald FSchrader B: Most effective stimulation site in subthalamic deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease. Mov Disord 19:105010542004

  • 19

    Hughes AJDaniel SEKilford LLees AJ: Accuracy of clinical diagnosis of idiopathic Parkinson's disease: a clinicopathological study of 100 cases. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 55:1811841992

  • 20

    Johnsen ELSunde NMogensen PHOstergaard K: MRI verified STN stimulation site—gait improvement and clinical outcome. Eur J Neurol 17:7467532010

  • 21

    Krack PBatir AVan Blercom NChabardes SFraix VArdouin C: Five-year follow-up of bilateral stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus in advanced Parkinson's disease. N Engl J Med 349:192519342003

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    Krauth ABlanc RPoveda AJeanmonod DMorel ASzékely G: A mean three-dimensional atlas of the human thalamus: generation from multiple histological data. Neuroimage 49:205320622010

  • 23

    Lalys FHaegelen CMehri MDrapier SVérin MJannin P: Anatomo-clinical atlases correlate clinical data and electrode contact coordinates: application to subthalamic deep brain stimulation. J Neurosci Methods 212:2973072013

  • 24

    Lambert CZrinzo LNagy ZLutti AHariz MFoltynie T: Confirmation of functional zones within the human subthalamic nucleus: patterns of connectivity and subparcellation using diffusion weighted imaging. Neuroimage 60:83942012

  • 25

    Lanotte MMRizzone MBergamasco BFaccani GMelcarne ALopiano L: Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus: anatomical, neurophysiological, and outcome correlations with the effects of stimulation. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 72:53582002

  • 26

    Maks CBButson CRWalter BLVitek JLMcIntyre CC: Deep brain stimulation activation volumes and their association with neurophysiological mapping and therapeutic outcomes. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 80:6596662009

  • 27

    Morel AMagnin MJeanmonod D: Multiarchitectonic and stereotactic atlas of the human thalamus. J Comp Neurol 387:5886301997

  • 28

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