Chronic electrical stimulation of the ventralis intermedius nucleus of the thalamus as a treatment of movement disorders

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✓ Tremor was suppressed by test stimulation of the thalamic ventralis intermedius (VIM) nucleus at high frequency (130 Hz) during stereotaxy in nonanesthetized patients suffering from Parkinson's disease or essential tremor. Ventralis intermedius stimulation has since been used by the authors over the last 8 years as a treatment in 117 patients with movement disorders (80 cases of Parkinson's disease, 20 cases of essential tremor, and 17 cases of various dyskinesias and dystonias including four multiple sclerosis). Chronic electrodes were stereotactically implanted in the VIM and connected to a programmable stimulator. Results depend on the indication. In Parkinson's disease patients, tremor, but not bradykinesia and rigidity, was selectively suppressed for as long as 8 years. Administration ofl-Dopa was decreased by more than 30% in 40 Parkinson's disease patients. In essential tremor patients, results were satisfactory but deteriorated with time in 18.5% of cases, mainly for patients who presented an action component of their tremor. In other types of dyskinesias (except multiple sclerosis), results were much less favorable. Fifty-nine patients underwent bilateral implantation and 14 other patients received implantation contralateral to a previous thalamotomy. Thirty-seven patients (31.6%) experienced minor side effects, which were always well tolerated and immediately reversible. Three secondary scalp infections led to temporary removal of the implanted material. There was no permanent morbidity. This tremor suppression effect could be due to the inhibition or jamming of a retroactive loop. Chronic VIM stimulation, which is reversible, adaptable, and well tolerated even by patients undergoing bilateral surgery (74 of 117 patients) and by elderly patients, should replace thalamotomy in the regular surgical treatment of parkinsonian and essential tremors.

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Address reprint requests to: Alim Louis Benabid, M.D., Department of Clinical and Biological Neurosciences, INSERM Pre-clinical Neurobiology U-318, Joseph Fourier University of Grenoble, Hôpital A. Michallon, Pavilion B, BP 217, 38043 Grenoble, France.
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