The dentato-rubro-thalamic tract as the potential common deep brain stimulation target for tremor of various origin

Acta Neurochirurgica (2020) 162: 1053–1066

Deep brain stimulation alleviates tremor of various origins. The dentato-rubro-thalamic tract (DRT) has been suspected as a common tremor-reducing structure. Statistical evidence has not been obtained. We here report the results of an uncontrolled case series of patients with refractory tremor who underwent deep brain stimulation under tractographic assistance.

Methods A total of 36 patients were enrolled (essential tremor (17), Parkinson’s tremor (8), multiple sclerosis (7), dystonic head tremor (3), tardive dystonia (1)) and received 62 DBS electrodes (26 bilateral; 10 unilateral). Preoperatively, diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging sequences were acquired together with high-resolution anatomical T1Wand T2W sequences. The DRTwas individually tracked and used as a direct thalamic or subthalamic target. Intraoperative tremor reduction was graded on a 4-point scale (0 = no tremor reduction to 3 = full tremor control) and recorded together with the current amplitude, respectively. Stimulation point coordinates were recorded and compared to DRT. The relation of the current amplitude needed to reduce tremor was expressed as TiCR (tremor improvement per current ratio).

Results Stimulation points of 241 were available for analysis. A total of 68 trajectories were tested (62 dB leads, 1.1 trajectories tested per implanted lead). Tremor improvement was significantly decreasing (p < 0.01) if the distance to both the border and the center of the DRT was increasing. On the initial trajectory, 56 leads (90.3%) were finally placed. Long-term outcomes were not part of this analysis.

Discussion Tremor of various origins was acutely alleviated at different points along the DRT fiber tract (above and below the MCP plane) despite different tremor diseases. DRT is potentially a common tremor-reducing structure. Individual targeting helps to reduce brain penetrating tracts. TiCR characterizes stimulation efficacy and might help to identify an optimal stimulation point.