Magnetic resonance imaging–guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) provides real-time monitoring of patients to assess tremor control and document any adverse effects. MRgFUS of the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) of the thalamus has become an effective treatment option for medically intractable essential tremor (ET). The aim of this study was to analyze the correlations of clinical and technical parameters with 12-month outcomes after unilateral MRgFUS thalamotomy for ET to help guide future clinical treatments.
From October 2013 to January 2019, data on unilateral MRgFUS thalamotomy from the original pivotal study and continued-access studies from three different geographic regions were collected. Authors of the present study retrospectively reviewed those data and evaluated the efficacy of the procedure on the basis of improvement in the Clinical Rating Scale for Tremor (CRST) subscore at 1 year posttreatment. Safety was based on the rates of moderate and severe thalamotomy-related adverse events. Treatment outcomes in relation to various patient- and sonication-related parameters were analyzed in a large cohort of patients with ET.
In total, 250 patients were included in the present analysis. Improvement was sustained throughout the 12-month follow-up period, and 184 (73.6%) of 250 patients had minimal or no disability due to tremor (CRST subscore < 10) at the 12-month follow-up. Younger age and higher focal temperature (Tmax) correlated with tremor improvement in the multivariate analysis (OR 0.948, p = 0.013; OR 1.188, p = 0.025; respectively). However, no single statistically significant factor correlated with Tmax in the multivariate analysis. The cutoff value of Tmax in predicting a CRST subscore < 10 was 55.8°C. Skull density ratio (SDR) was positively correlated with heating efficiency (β = 0.005, p < 0.001), but no significant relationship with tremor improvement was observed. In the low-temperature group, 1–3 repetitions to the right target with 52°C ≤ Tmax ≤ 54°C was sufficient to generate sustained tremor suppression within the investigated follow-up period. The high-temperature group had a higher rate of balance disturbances than the low-temperature group (p = 0.04).
The authors analyzed the data of 250 patients with the aim of improving practices for patient screening and determining treatment endpoints. These results may improve the safety, efficacy, and efficiency of MRgFUS thalamotomy for ET.