Brain Atrophy Following Deep Brain Stimulation: Management of a Moving Target

Congratulations Drs. Shannon Y. Chiu, Wissam Deeb, Pamela Zeilman, Adolfo Ramirez-Zamora, Addie Patterson, Bhavana Patel, Kelly D. Foote, Michael S. Okun, and Leonardo Almeida on the publication of “Brain Atrophy Following Deep Brain Stimulation: Management of a Moving Target” in the October 21, 2020 issue of Tremor and Other Hyperkinetic Movements.



Clinical vignette: A 51-year-old man with essential tremor (ET) had bilateral ventralis intermedius nucleus deep brain stimulation (VIM-DBS) placed to address refractory tremor. Despite well-placed DBS leads and adequate tremor response, he subsequently experienced worsening. Re-programming of the device and reconfirming the electrical thresholds for benefits and side effects were both performed. Six years following DBS implantation, repeat imaging revealed brain atrophy and a measured lead position change with a coincident change in clinical response.

Clinical dilemma: What do we know about brain atrophy affecting lead placement and long-term DBS effectiveness? What are the potential strategies to combat narrowed therapeutic thresholds and to maximize DBS therapeutic benefit?

Clinical solution: Decreasing the electrical field of stimulation and programming in a bipolar configuration are strategies to provide symptomatic tremor control and to minimize stimulation-induced side effects.

Gaps in knowledge: Currently, effects of brain atrophy, and factors underpinning emergence of side effects and/or loss of benefit in chronic VIM-DBS remain largely unexplored.