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Alon Sinai, Maria Nassar, Ayelet Eran, Marius Constantinescu, Menashe Zaaroor, Elliot Sprecher and Ilana Schlesinger

OBJECTIVE

The authors report their experience in treating patients suffering from medication-resistant essential tremor (ET) with MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) thalamotomy over a 5-year period.

METHODS

Forty-four ET patients treated with unilateral MRgFUS ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) thalamotomy were assessed using the Clinical Rating Scale for Tremor (CRST) score and the Quality of Life in Essential Tremor Questionnaire (QUEST) over a 5-year span.

RESULTS

Tremor was significantly improved immediately following MRgFUS in all patients and ceased completely in 24 patients. CRST scores in the treated hand at baseline (median 19; range 7–32, 44 patients) improved by a median of 16 at 1 month (44 patients; p < 0.0001), 17 at 6 months (31 patients; p < 0.0001), 15 at 1 year (24 patients; p < 0.0001), 18 at 2 years (15 patients; p < 0.0001), 19 at 3 years, (10 patients; p < 0.0001), 21 at 4 years (6 patients; p < 0.01), and 23 at 5 years (2 patients, significance not tested). Return of tremor that impacted activities of daily living was reported in 5 patients (11%). QUEST scores showed significant improvement, with median change of 35 points (p < 0.0001; 44 patients) at 1 month, 33 (p < 0.0001; 31 patients) at 6 months, 27 (p < 0.0001; 24 patients) at 1 year, 26 (p < 0.001; 15 patients) at 2 years, 25 (p < 0.001; 10 patients) at 3 years, 33 (p < 0.001; 6 patients) at 4 years, and 28 (significance not tested, 2 patients) at 5 years. Adverse events after the procedure were reversible in all but 5 patients (11%).

CONCLUSIONS

MRgFUS thalamotomy for ET is an effective and safe procedure that provides long-term tremor relief and improvement in quality of life even in patients with medication-resistant disabling tremor. Additional studies with a larger group of patients is needed to substantiate these favorable results.