The objective of this study was to evaluate the utility of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) tractography–based targeting of the dentatorubrothalamic tract (DRT) for magnetic resonance–guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) thalamotomy in patients with essential tremor (ET) and correlate postprocedural tract disruption with clinical outcomes.
Four patients received preprocedural and immediate postprocedural DTI in addition to traditional anatomical MRI sequences for MRgFUS thalamotomy. Optimal ablation sites were selected based on the patient-specific location of the DRT as demonstrated by DTI (direct targeting) and correlated with traditional atlas-based measurements for thalamic ventral intermediate nucleus (Vim) lesioning (indirect targeting). Fiber tracts were displayed three-dimensionally during the procedure and used in conjunction with clinical signs of tremor control for fine correction of the ablation site. Immediately following the conclusion of the procedure, the MRgFUS head frame was removed and patients were placed in a 32-channel MRI head coil for follow-up DTI and anatomical MRI sequences.
All patients had excellent postoperative tremor control and successful pre- and postprocedural DTI fiber tracking of the corticospinal tract, medial lemniscus, and DRT. Immediate postprocedure DTI failed to track the DRT ipsilateral to the lesion site with a preserved contralateral DRT, coincident with substantial resolution of contralateral tremor.
DTI can reliably identify the optimal ablation target and demonstrates tract disruption on immediate postprocedural imaging. A clinical improvement of ET was observed immediately following the procedure, correlating with DRT disruption and suggesting that interruption of the DRT is a consequence of clinically successful MRgFUS thalamotomy. These findings may have utility for both MRgFUS procedure planning in surgically naive patients and retreatment of patients who have previously undergone unsuccessful thalamic Vim lesioning.