A Systematic Review Comparing Focused Ultrasound Surgery With Radiosurgery for Essential Tremor

Neurosurgery 93:524–538, 2023

Focused ultrasound (FUS-T) and stereotactic radiosurgery thalamotomy (SRS-T) targeting the ventral intermediate nucleus are effective incisionless surgeries for essential tremor (ET). However, their efficacy for tremor reduction and, importantly, adverse event incidence have not been directly compared.

OBJECTIVE: To present a comprehensive systematic review with network meta-analysis examining both efficacy and adverse events (AEs) of FUS-T vs SRS-T for treating medically refractory ET.

METHODS: We conducted a systematic review and network meta-analysis according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, using the PubMed and Embase databases. We included all primary FUS-T/SRS-T studies with approximately 1-year follow-up, with unilateral Fahn-Tolosa-Marin Tremor Rating Scale or Clinical Rating Scale for Tremor scores prethalamotomy/post-thalamotomy and/or AEs. The primary efficacy outcome was Fahn-Tolosa-Marin Tremor Rating Scale A+B score reduction. AEs were reported as an estimated incidence.

RESULTS: Fifteen studies of 464 patients and 3 studies of 62 patients met inclusion criteria for FUS-T/SRS-T efficacy comparison, respectively. Network meta-analysis demonstrated similar tremor reduction between modalities (absolute tremor reduction: FUS-T: À11.6 (95% CI: À13.3, À9.9); SRS-T: À10.3 (95% CI: À14.2, À6.0). FUS-T had a greater 1-year adverse event rate, particularly imbalance and gait disturbances (10.5%) and sensory disturbances (8.3%). Contralateral hemiparesis (2.7%) often accompanied by speech impairment (2.4%) were most common after SRS-T. There was no correlation between efficacy and lesion volume.

CONCLUSION: Our systematic review found similar efficacy between FUS-T and SRS-T for ET, with trend toward higher efficacy yet greater adverse event incidence with FUS-T. Smaller lesion volumes could mitigate FUS-T off-target effects for greater safety.