This study evaluated changes of fractional anisotropy (FA) in the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) of the thalamus after transcranial MR-guided focused ultrasound (TcMRgFUS) thalamotomy and their associations with clinical outcome.
Clinical and radiological data of 12 patients with medically refractory essential tremor (mean age 76.5 years) who underwent TcMRgFUS thalamotomy with VIM targeting were analyzed retrospectively. The Clinical Rating Scale for Tremor (CRST) score was calculated before and at 1 year after treatment. Measurements of the relative FA (rFA) values, defined as ratio of the FA value in the targeted VIM to the FA value in the contralateral VIM, were performed before thalamotomy, and 1 day and 1 year thereafter.
TcMRgFUS thalamotomy was well tolerated and no long-term complications were noted. At 1-year follow-up, 8 patients demonstrated relief of tremor (improvement group), whereas in 4 others persistent tremor was noted (recurrence group). In the entire cohort, mean rFA values in the targeted VIM before treatment, and at 1 day and 1 year after treatment, were 1.12 ± 0.15, 0.44 ± 0.13, and 0.82 ± 0.22, respectively (p < 0.001). rFA values were consistently higher in the recurrence group compared with the improvement group, and the difference reached statistical significance at 1 day (p < 0.05) and 1 year (p < 0.01) after treatment. There was a statistically significant (p < 0.01) positive correlation between rFA values in the targeted VIM at 1 day after thalamotomy and CRST score at 1 year after treatment. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis revealed that the optimal cutoff value of rFA at 1 day after thalamotomy for prediction of symptomatic improvement at 1-year follow-up is 0.54.
TcMRgFUS thalamotomy results in significant decrease of rFA in the targeted VIM, at both 1 day and 1 year after treatment. Relative FA values at 1 day after treatment showed significant correlation with CRST score at 1-year follow-up. Therefore, FA may be considered a possible imaging biomarker for early prediction of clinical outcome after TcMRgFUS thalamotomy for essential tremor.