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Anterior capsulotomy for obsessive-compulsive disorder: a review of old and new literature

Joshua Pepper, Ludvic Zrinzo, and Marwan Hariz

Over the last two decades, deep brain stimulation (DBS) has gained popularity as a treatment of severe and medically refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), often using brain targets informed by historical lesional neurosurgical procedures. Paradoxically, the use of DBS in OCD has led some multidisciplinary teams to revisit the use of lesional procedures, especially anterior capsulotomy (AC), although significant aversion still exists toward the use of lesional neurosurgery for psychiatric disorders. This paper aims to review all literature on the use of AC for OCD to examine its effectiveness and safety profile.

All publications on AC for OCD were searched. In total 512 patients were identified in 25 publications spanning 1961–2018. In papers where a Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) score was available, 73% of patients had a clinical response (i.e., > 35% improvement in Y-BOCS score) and 24% patients went into remission (Y-BOCS score < 8). In the older publications, published when the Y-BOCS was not yet available, 90% of patients were deemed to have had a significant clinical response and 39% of patients were considered symptom free. The rate of serious complications was low.

In summary, AC is a safe, well-tolerated, and efficacious therapy. Its underuse is likely a result of historical prejudice rather than lack of clinical effectiveness.

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Changing of the guard: reducing infection when replacing neural pacemakers

Joshua Pepper, Lara Meliak, Harith Akram, Jonathan Hyam, Catherine Milabo, Joseph Candelario, Thomas Foltynie, Patricia Limousin, Carmel Curtis, Marwan Hariz, and Ludvic Zrinzo


Infection of deep brain stimulation (DBS) hardware has a significant impact on patient morbidity. Previous experience suggests that infection rates appear to be higher after implantable pulse generator (IPG) replacement surgery than after the de novo DBS procedure. In this study the authors examine the effect of a change in practice during DBS IPG replacements at their institution.


Starting in January 2012, patient screening for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and, and where necessary, eradication was performed prior to elective DBS IPG change. Moreover, topical vancomycin was placed in the IPG pocket during surgery. The authors then prospectively examined the infection rate in patients undergoing DBS IPG replacement at their center over a 3-year period with at least 9 months of follow-up.


The total incidence of infection in this prospective consecutive series of 101 IPG replacement procedures was 0%, with a mean follow-up duration of 24 ± 11 months. This was significantly lower than the authors' previously published historical control group, prior to implementing the change in practice, where the infection rate for IPG replacement was 8.5% (8/94 procedures; p = 0.003).


This study suggests that a change in clinical practice can significantly lower infection rates in patients undergoing DBS IPG replacement. These simple measures can minimize unnecessary surgery, loss of benefit from chronic stimulation, and costly hardware replacement, further improving the cost efficacy of DBS therapies.

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Deep brain stimulation versus anterior capsulotomy for obsessive-compulsive disorder: a review of the literature

Joshua Pepper, Marwan Hariz, and Ludvic Zrinzo

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic and debilitating psychiatric condition. Traditionally, anterior capsulotomy (AC) was an established procedure for treatment of patients with refractory OCD. Over recent decades, deep brain stimulation (DBS) has gained popularity. In this paper the authors review the published literature and compare the outcome of AC and DBS targeting of the area of the ventral capsule/ventral striatum (VC/VS) and nucleus accumbens (NAcc).

Patients in published cases were grouped according to whether they received AC or DBS and according to their preoperative scores on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (YBOCS), and then separated according to outcome measures: remission (YBOCS score < 8); response (≥ 35% improvement in YBOCS score); nonresponse (< 35% improvement in YBOCS score); and unfavorable (i.e., worsening of the baseline YBOCS score).

Twenty studies were identified reporting on 170 patients; 62 patients underwent DBS of the VC/VS or the NAcc (mean age 38 years, follow-up 19 months, baseline YBOCS score of 33), and 108 patients underwent AC (mean age 36 years, follow-up 61 months, baseline YBOCS score of 30). In patients treated with DBS there was a 40% decrease in YBOCS score, compared with a 51% decrease for those who underwent AC (p = 0.004). Patients who underwent AC were 9% more likely to go into remission than patients treated with DBS (p = 0.02). No difference in complication rates was noted.

Anterior capsulotomy is an efficient procedure for refractory OCD. Deep brain stimulation in the VC/VS and NAcc area is an emerging and promising therapy. The current popularity of DBS over ablative surgery for OCD is not due to nonefficacy of AC, but possibly because DBS is perceived as more acceptable by clinicians and patients.

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Editorial: Anterior capsulotomy and deep brain stimulation

Emad N. Eskandar