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Disabling intractable tremor occurs frequently in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). There is currently no effective medical treatment available, and the results of surgical intervention have been variable. Thalamotomy has been the mainstay of neurosurgical therapy for intractable MS tremor, however the popularisation of deep brain stimulation (DBS) has led to the adoption of chronic thalamic stimulation in an attempt to ameliorate this condition. With the goal of examining the relative efficacy and adverse effects of these two surgical strategies, we studied twenty carefully selected patients with intractable MS tremor. Thalamotomy was performed in 10 patients, with chronic DBS administered to the remaining 10. Both thalamotomy and thalamic stimulation produced improvements in postural and intention tremor. The mean improvement in postural tremor at 16.2 months following surgery was 78%, compared with a 64% improvement after thalamic stimulation (14.6 month follow-up) (P > 0.05). Intention tremor improved by 72% in the group undergoing thalamotomy, a significantly larger gain than the 36% tremor reduction following DBS (P < 0.05). Early postoperative complications were common in both groups. Permanent complications related to surgery occurred in four patients overall. Following thalamotomy, long-term adverse effects were observed in three patients (30%), and comprised hemiparesis and seizures. Only one patient in the thalamic stimulation group experienced a permanent deficit (monoparesis). We conclude that thalamotomy is a more efficacious surgical treatment for intractable MS tremor, however the higher incidence of persistent neurological deficits in patients receiving lesional surgery may support the use of DBS as the preferred surgical strategy.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Neurosci

Publication Date





638 - 642


Adult, Deep Brain Stimulation, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurologic Examination, Psychosurgery, Severity of Illness Index, Thalamus, Treatment Outcome, Tremor