Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a rapidly growing surgical option for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy who are not candidates for resective/ablative surgery. Recent randomized controlled trials have demonstrated efficacy of DBS of the anterior nucleus of the thalamus (ANT), particularly in frontal or temporal epilepsy, whereas DBS of the centromedian (CM) nucleus appears to be most suitable in well-defined generalized epilepsy syndromes. At the authors’ institution, DBS candidates who did not fit the populations represented in these trials were managed with DBS of multiple distinct targets, which included ANT, CM, and less-studied nuclei—i.e., mediodorsal nucleus, pulvinar, and subthalamic nucleus. The goal of this study was to present the authors’ experience with these types of cases, and to motivate future investigations that can determine the long-term efficacy of multitarget DBS.
This single-center retrospective study of adult patients with drug-resistant epilepsy who underwent multitarget DBS was performed to demonstrate the feasibility and safety of this approach, and to present seizure outcomes. Patients in this cohort had epilepsy with features that were difficult to treat with DBS of the ANT or CM nucleus alone, including multifocal/multilobar, diffuse-onset, and/or posterior-onset seizures; or both generalized and focal seizures.
Eight patients underwent DBS of 2–3 distinct thalamic/subthalamic nuclei. DBS was performed with 2 electrodes in each hemisphere. All leads in each patient were implanted with either frontal or parietal trajectories. There were no surgical complications. Among those with > 6 months of follow-up (n = 5; range 7–21 months), all patients were responders in terms of overall seizure frequency and/or convulsive seizure frequency (i.e., ≥ 50% reduction). Two patients had adverse stimulation effects, which resolved with further programming.
Multitarget DBS is a procedurally feasible and safe treatment strategy to maximize outcomes in patients with complex epilepsy. The authors highlight their approach to inform future studies that are sufficiently powered to assess its efficacy.