The field of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for epilepsy has grown tremendously since its inception in the 1970s and 1980s. The goal of this review is to identify and evaluate all studies published on the topic of open-loop DBS for epilepsy over the past decade (2008 to present).
A PubMed search was conducted to identify all articles reporting clinical outcomes of open-loop DBS for the treatment of epilepsy published since January 1, 2008. The following composite search terms were used: (“epilepsy” [MeSH] OR “seizures” [MeSH] OR “kindling, neurologic” [MeSH] OR epilep* OR seizure* OR convuls*) AND (“deep brain stimulation” [MeSH] OR “deep brain stimulation” OR “DBS”) OR (“electric stimulation therapy” [MeSH] OR “electric stimulation therapy” OR “implantable neurostimulators” [MeSH]).
The authors identified 41 studies that met the criteria for inclusion. The anterior nucleus of the thalamus, centromedian nucleus of the thalamus, and hippocampus were the most frequently evaluated targets. Among the 41 articles, 19 reported on stimulation of the anterior nucleus of the thalamus, 6 evaluated stimulation of the centromedian nucleus of the thalamus, and 9 evaluated stimulation of the hippocampus. The remaining 7 articles reported on the evaluation of alternative DBS targets, including the posterior hypothalamus, subthalamic nucleus, ventral intermediate nucleus of the thalamus, nucleus accumbens, caudal zone incerta, mammillothalamic tract, and fornix. The authors evaluated each study for overall epilepsy response rates as well as adverse events and other significant, nonepilepsy outcomes.
Level I evidence supports the safety and efficacy of stimulating the anterior nucleus of the thalamus and the hippocampus for the treatment of medically refractory epilepsy. Level III and IV evidence supports stimulation of other targets for epilepsy. Ongoing research into the efficacy, adverse effects, and mechanisms of open-loop DBS continues to expand the knowledge supporting the use of these treatment modalities in patients with refractory epilepsy.