Object. In several studies a significant reduction in tremor after thalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been reported among patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). It has not been determined if this results in an improved quality of life. In this study the authors prospectively evaluated the effects of thalamic DBS on tremor and quality of life.
Methods. Videotapes of the patients' tremor were made preoperatively and 2 and 12 months postoperatively, and tremor was scored by a neurologist blinded to the treatment. Patients were tested pre- and postoperatively to measure any changes in their reported ability to perform selected activities of daily living and in their health-related quality of life. Patients were asked to complete a questionnaire about their satisfaction with the surgery. Postoperative changes were examined using paired t-tests.
There were significant reductions in postural, action, and overall tremor at 2 and 12 months postoperatively. The patients' reported ability to feed themselves was significantly improved 2 months after surgery (p = 0.01). There were short-term trends toward improvement in reported dressing ability, personal hygiene, and writing. There were no significant changes in the SF-36 subscales or total score.
Conclusions. In this cohort of patients with MS who suffered from tremor, thalamic DBS significantly improved their tremor and ability to feed themselves. Patient satisfaction with the procedure, however, was variable. Preoperative patient education about what functions might (and might not) be improved is crucial to avoid unrealistic expectations. Our results indicate that younger patients with MS tremor who had a shorter disease duration and no superimposed ataxia benefited most from this surgery.