MR-guided focused ultrasound pallidotomy for Parkinson's disease: safety and feasibility

Howard Eisenberg, Vibhor Krishna, W Jeffrey Elias, G Rees Cosgrove, Dheeraj Gandhi, Charlene E Aldrich, Paul S Fishman
Journal of Neurosurgery 2020 November 27, : 1-7

OBJECTIVE: Stereotactic radiofrequency pallidotomy has demonstrated improvement in motor fluctuations in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), particularly levodopa (L-dopa)-induced dyskinesias. The authors aimed to determine whether or not unilateral pallidotomy with MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) could safely improve Unified Dyskinesia Rating Scale (UDysRS; the primary outcome measure) scores over baseline scores in patients with PD.

METHODS: Twenty patients with PD and L-dopa responsiveness, asymmetrical motor signs, and motor fluctuations, including dyskinesias, participated in a 1-year multicenter open-label trial of unilateral MRgFUS ablation of the globus pallidus internus.

RESULTS: The sonication procedure was successfully completed in all 20 enrolled patients. MRgFUS-related adverse neurological events were generally mild and transient, including visual field deficit (n = 1), dysarthria (n = 4, 2 mild and 2 moderate), cognitive disturbance (n = 1), fine motor deficit (n = 2), and facial weakness (n = 1). Although 3 adverse events (AEs) were rated as severe (transient sonication-related pain in 2, nausea/vomiting in 1), no AE fulfilled US FDA criteria for a Serious Adverse Effect. Total UDysRS, the primary outcome measure, improved 59% after treatment (baseline mean score 36.1, 95% CI 4.88; at 3 months 14.2, 95% CI 5.72, p < 0.0001), which was sustained throughout the study (at 12 months 20.5, 95% CI 7.39, 43% improvement, p < 0.0001). The severity of motor signs on the treated side (Movement Disorder Society version of the United Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale [MDS-UPDRS] part III) in the "off" medication state also significantly improved (baseline mean score 20.0, 95% CI 2.4; at 3 months 10.6, 95% CI 1.86, 44.5% improvement, p < 0.0001; at 12 months 10.4, 95% CI 2.11, 45.2% improvement, p > 0.0001). The vast majority of patients showed a clinically meaningful level of improvement on the impairment component of the UDysRS or the motor component of the UPDRS, while 1 patient showed clinically meaningful worsening on the UPDRS at month 3.

CONCLUSIONS: This study supports the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of MRgFUS pallidotomy in the treatment of patients with PD and motor fluctuations, including dyskinesias. These preliminary data support continued investigation, and a placebo-controlled, blinded trial is in progress. Clinical trial registration no.: NCT02263885 (

ABBREVIATIONS: AE = adverse event; DBS = deep brain stimulation; FGATIR = fast gray matter acquisition T1 inversion recovery; GPi = globus pallidus internus; L-dopa = levodopa; MDS-UPDRS = Movement Disorder Society version of the UPDRS; MRgFUS = MR-guided focused ultrasound; PD = Parkinson's disease; SAE = Serious Adverse Effect; UDysRS = Unified Dyskinesia Rating Scale; UPDRS = United Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale.

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