Efficacy of bilateral pallidotomy

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Unilateral pallidotomy is a safe and effective treatment for medically refractory bradykinetic Parkinson's disease, especially in those patients with levodopa-induced dyskinesia and severe on-off fluctuations. The efficacy of bilateral pallidotomy is less certain.

The authors completed 11 of 12 attempted bilateral pallidotomies among 150 patients undergoing pallidotomy at New York University. In all but one patient, the pallidotomies were separated by at least 9 months. Patients were selected for bilateral pallidotomy if they exhibited bilateral rigidity, bradykinesia, or levodopa-induced dyskinesia prior to treatment or if they exhibited disease progression contralateral to their previously treated side.

The Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) and timed upper-extremity tasks of the Core Assessment Protocol for Intracerebral Transplantation (CAPIT) were administered to all 12 patients in the “off” state (12 hours without receiving medications) preoperatively and again at 6 and 12 months after each procedure. The median UPDRS and contralateral CAPIT scores improved 60% following the initial procedure (p = 0.008, Wilcoxon rank sums test). The second pallidotomy generated only an additional 10% improvement in the UPDRS and CAPIT scores ipsilateral to the original procedure (p = 0.05). Worsened speech was observed in two cases. In the 12th case, total speech arrest was noted during test stimulation. Speech returned within minutes after stimulation was halted. Lesioning was not performed.

These results indicate that bilateral pallidotomy has a narrow therapeutic window. Motor improvement ipsilateral to the first lesion leaves little room for further improvement from the second lesion and the risk of speech deficit is greatly enhanced. Chronic pallidal stimulation contralateral to a previously successful pallidotomy may prove to be a safer alternative for the subset of patients who require bilateral procedures.

Unilateral pallidotomy is a safe and effective treatment for medically refractory bradykinetic Parkinson's disease, especially in those patients with levodopa-induced dyskinesia and severe on-off fluctuations. The efficacy of bilateral pallidotomy is less certain.

The authors completed 11 of 12 attempted bilateral pallidotomies among 150 patients undergoing pallidotomy at New York University. In all but one patient, the pallidotomies were separated by at least 9 months. Patients were selected for bilateral pallidotomy if they exhibited bilateral rigidity, bradykinesia, or levodopa-induced dyskinesia prior to treatment or if they exhibited disease progression contralateral to their previously treated side.

The Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) and timed upper-extremity tasks of the Core Assessment Protocol for Intracerebral Transplantation (CAPIT) were administered to all 12 patients in the “off” state (12 hours without receiving medications) preoperatively and again at 6 and 12 months after each procedure. The median UPDRS and contralateral CAPIT scores improved 60% following the initial procedure (p = 0.008, Wilcoxon rank sums test). The second pallidotomy generated only an additional 10% improvement in the UPDRS and CAPIT scores ipsilateral to the original procedure (p = 0.05). Worsened speech was observed in two cases. In the 12th case, total speech arrest was noted during test stimulation. Speech returned within minutes after stimulation was halted. Lesioning was not performed.

These results indicate that bilateral pallidotomy has a narrow therapeutic window. Motor improvement ipsilateral to the first lesion leaves little room for further improvement from the second lesion and the risk of speech deficit is greatly enhanced. Chronic pallidal stimulation contralateral to a previously successful pallidotomy may prove to be a safer alternative for the subset of patients who require bilateral procedures.

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Address reprint requests to: Ron Alterman, M.D., 530 First Avenue, Suite 8R, New York, New York 10016.

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