Deep brain stimulation of the posteromedial hypothalamus: indications, long-term results, and neurophysiological considerations

Neurosurg Focus 29 (2):E13, 2010. DOI: 10.3171/2010.5.FOCUS1094

The aim of this study was to review the indications for and results of deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the posterior hypothalamus (pHyp) in the treatment of drug-refractory and severe painful syndromes of the face, disruptive and aggressive behavior associated with epilepsy, and below-average intelligence. The preoperative clinical picture, functional imaging studies, and overall clinical results in the literature are discussed.

Methods. All patients underwent stereotactic implantation of deep-brain electrodes within the pHyp. Data from several authors have been collected and reported for each clinical entity, as have clinical results, adverse events, and neurophysiological characteristics of the pHyp.

Results. The percentage of patients with chronic cluster headache who responded to DBS was 50% in the overall reported series. The response rate was 100% for short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing and for chronic paroxysmal hemicrania, although only 2 patients and 1 patient, respectively, have been described as having these conditions. None of the 4 patients suffering from refractory neuropathic trigeminal pain benefited from the procedure (0% response rate), whereas all 5 patients (100%) affected with refractory trigeminal neuralgia (TN) due to multiple sclerosis (MS) and undergoing pHyp DBS experienced a significant decrease in pain attacks within the first branch of cranial nerve V. Six (75%) of 8 patients presenting with aggressive behavior and mental retardation benefited from pHyp stimulation; 6 patients were part of the authors’ series and 2 were reported in the literature.

Conclusions. In carefully selected patients, DBS of the pHyp can be considered an effective procedure for the treatment of refractory trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias, aggressive behavior, and MS-related TN in the first trigeminal branch. Only larger and prospective studies along with multidisciplinary approaches (including, by necessity, neuroimaging studies) can lead us to better patient selection that would reduce the rate of nonresponders.

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