Prospective Tractography-Based Targeting for Improved Safety of Focused Ultrasound Thalamotomy

Neurosurgery 84:160–168, 2019

Focused ultrasound thalamotomy (FUS-T) was recently approved for the treatment of refractory essential tremor (ET). Despite its noninvasive approach, FUS-T reinitiated concerns about the adverse effects and long-term efficacy after lesioning.

OBJECTIVE: To prospectively assess the outcomes of FUS-T in 10 ET patients using tractography-based targeting of the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM).

METHODS: VIM was identified at the intercommissural plane based on its neighboring tracts: the pyramidal tract and medial lemniscus. FUS-T was performed at the center of tractography-defined VIM. Tremor outcomes, at baseline and 3 mo, were assessed independently by the Tremor Research Group.We analyzed targeting coordinates, clinical outcomes, and adverse events. The FUS-T lesion location was analyzed in relation to unbiased thalamic parcellation using probabilisitic tractography. Quantitative diffusionweighted imaging changes were also studied in fiber tracts of interest.

RESULTS: The tractography coordinates were more anterior than the standard. Intraoperatively, therapeutic sonications at the tractography target improved tremor (>50% improvement) without motor or sensory side effects. Sustained improvement in tremor was observed at 3mo(tremor score: 18.3±6.9 vs 8.1±4.4, P=.001).Nomotorweakness and sensory deficits after FUS-T were observed during 6-mo follow-up. Ataxia was observed in 3 patients. FUS-T lesions overlapped with the VIM parcellated with probablisitic tractography. Significant microstructural changes were observed in the white matter connecting VIM with cerebellum and motor cortex.

CONCLUSION: This is the first report of prospective VIM targeting with tractography for FUS-T. These results suggest that tractography-guided targeting is safe and has satisfactory short-term clinical outcomes.