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Camilla Kilbane, Adolfo Ramirez-Zamora, Elena Ryapolova-Webb, Salman Qasim, Graham A. Glass, Philip A. Starr and Jill L. Ostrem

OBJECT

Holmes tremor (HT) is characterized by irregular, low-frequency (< 4.5 Hz) tremor occurring at rest, with posture, and with certain actions, often affecting proximal muscles. Previous reports have tended to highlight the use of thalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS) in cases of medication-refractory HT. In this study, the authors report the clinical outcome and analysis of single-unit recordings in patients with medication-refractory HT treated with globus pallidus internus (GPi) DBS.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical charts of 4 patients treated with pallidal DBS for medication-refractory HT at the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Clinical outcomes were measured at baseline and after surgery using an abbreviated motor-severity Fahn-Tolosa-Marin (FTM) tremor rating scale. Intraoperative microelectrode recordings were performed with patients in the awake state. The neurophysiological characteristics identified in HT were then also compared with characteristics previously described in Parkinson's disease (PD) studied at the authors' institution.

RESULTS

The mean percentage improvement in tremor motor severity was 78.87% (range 59.9%–94.4%) as measured using the FTM tremor rating scale, with an average length of follow-up of 33.75 months (range 18–52 months). Twenty-eight GPi neurons were recorded intraoperatively in the resting state and 13 of these were also recorded during contralateral voluntary arm movement. The mean firing rate at rest in HT was 56.2 ± 28.5 Hz, and 63.5 ± 19.4 Hz with action, much lower than the GPi recordings in PD. GPi unit oscillations of 2–8 Hz were prominent in both patients with HT and those with PD, but in HT, unlike PD, these oscillations were not suppressed by voluntary movement.

CONCLUSIONS

The efficacy of GPi DBS exceeded that reported in prior studies of ventrolateral thalamus DBS and suggest GPi may be a better target for treating HT. These clinical and neurophysiological findings help illuminate evolving models of HT and highlight the importance of cerebellar–basal ganglia interactions.

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Abigail Belasen, Khizer Rizvi, Lucy E. Gee, Philip Yeung, Julia Prusik, Adolfo Ramirez-Zamora, Era Hanspal, Priscilla Paiva, Jennifer Durphy, Charles E. Argoff and Julie G. Pilitsis

OBJECTIVE

Chronic pain is a major distressing symptom of Parkinson's disease (PD) that is often undertreated. Subthalamic nucleus (STN) deep brain stimulation (DBS) delivers high-frequency stimulation (HFS) to patients with PD and has been effective in pain relief in a subset of these patients. However, up to 74% of patients develop new pain concerns while receiving STN DBS. Here the authors explore whether altering the frequency of STN DBS changes pain perception as measured through quantitative sensory testing (QST).

METHODS

Using QST, the authors measured thermal and mechanical detection and pain thresholds in 19 patients undergoing DBS via HFS, low-frequency stimulation (LFS), and off conditions in a randomized order. Testing was performed in the region of the body with the most pain and in the lower back in patients without chronic pain.

RESULTS

In the patients with chronic pain, LFS significantly reduced heat detection thresholds as compared with thresholds following HFS (p = 0.029) and in the off state (p = 0.010). Moreover, LFS resulted in increased detection thresholds for mechanical pressure (p = 0.020) and vibration (p = 0.040) compared with these thresholds following HFS. Neither LFS nor HFS led to changes in other mechanical thresholds. In patients without chronic pain, LFS significantly increased mechanical pain thresholds in response to the 40-g pinprick compared with thresholds following HFS (p = 0.032).

CONCLUSIONS

Recent literature has suggested that STN LFS can be useful in treating nonmotor symptoms of PD. Here the authors demonstrated that LFS modulates thermal and mechanical detection to a greater extent than HFS. Low-frequency stimulation is an innovative means of modulating chronic pain in PD patients receiving STN DBS. The authors suggest that STN LFS may be a future option to consider when treating Parkinson's patients in whom pain remains the predominant complaint.

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Takashi Morishita, Yoshio Tsuboi, Masa-aki Higuchi and Tooru Inoue