Tractography-Based Surgical Targeting for Thalamic Deep Brain Stimulation: A Comparison of Probabilistic vs Deterministic Fiber Tracking of the Dentato-Rubro-Thalamic Tract

Neurosurgery 90:419–425, 2022

The ventral intermediate (VIM) thalamic nucleus is the main target for the surgical treatment of refractory tremor. Initial targeting traditionally relies on atlas-based stereotactic targeting formulas, which only minimally account for individual anatomy. Al- ternative approaches have been proposed, including direct targeting of the dentato-rubro- thalamic tract (DRTT), which, in clinical settings, is generally reconstructed with deterministic tracking. Whether more advanced probabilistic techniques are feasible on clinical-grade magnetic resonance acquisitions and lead to enhanced reconstructions is poorly understood.

OBJECTIVE: To compare DRTT reconstructed with deterministic vs probabilistic tracking. METHODS: Thisisaretrospectivestudyof19patientswithessentialtremorwhounderwentdeep brain stimulation (DBS) with intraoperative neurophysiology and stimulation testing. We assessed the proximity of the DRTT to the DBS lead and to the active contact chosen based on clinical response.

RESULTS: In the commissural plane, the deterministic DRTT was anterior (P<104)and  < 104) to the DBS lead. By contrast, although the probabilistic DRTT was also anterior to the lead (P < 104), there was no difference in the mediolateral dimension (P = .5). Moreover, the 3- dimensional Euclidean distance from the active contact to the probabilistic DRTT was smaller vs the distance to the deterministic DRTT (3.32 ± 1.70 mm vs 5.01 ± 2.12 mm; P < 104).

CONCLUSION: DRTT reconstructed with probabilistic fiber tracking was superior in spatial proximity to the physiology-guided DBS lead and to the empirically chosen active contact. These data inform strategies for surgical targeting of the VIM.