Deep brain stimulation is sometimes used to treat serious tremor in multiple sclerosis.
Deep brain stimulation involves surgery to permanently implanting electrodes in the area of the brain called the thalamus. A battery is implanted near the collarbone. This sends pulsed messages to the electrodes that block the nerve messages that are believed to cause tremor.
Deep brain stimulation was originally developed for Parkinson's disease. There have been few studies of the long-term effects in MS. The studies that have taken place found it worked in around 85% of people. However, the effects of treatment were short lived with symptoms returning within three to six months after surgery.
The operation itself carries some risks. A small number of people have a brain haemorrhage during the surgery. There is also the chance of developing significant new symptoms, such as speech and swallowing disorders, and balance problems.
Deep brain stimulation tends to be used only for very disabling tremor.
- British Journal of Neurosurgery 2007;21(4):349-354. Summary Stereotactic neurosurgery for disabling tremor in multiple sclerosis: thalamotomy or deep brain stimulation?
- Journal of Neurology 2007;254(7):854-860. Summary Post-deep brain stimulation - gradual non-stimulation dependent decrease in strength with attenuation of multiple sclerosis tremor.
- Neurologia i Neurochirurgia Polska 2010;44(6):542-545. Summary Thalamic deep brain stimulation for tremor among multiple sclerosis patients.
- Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 2011;82(4):419-422. Summary Permanent tremor reduction during thalamic stimulation in multiple sclerosis.
- European Journal of Neurology 2012;19(5):764-768. Summary Surgical therapy for multiple sclerosis tremor: a 12-year follow-up study.
- Neurosurgery 2012;70(1):66-69. Summary Unilateral thalamic deep brain stimulation for disabling kinetic tremor in multiple sclerosis.
Last reviewed: March 2016
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