More than 75 percent of patients stop the medications that is used to treat their essential tremors within one year following surgery after the deep brain stimulation, according to a research.
"It's a significant finding demonstrating that patients see a lot of symptom improvement with this treatment option," said Andrew Resnick, a research assistant in the USF Health Department of Neurology. Resnick will present results of the limited retrospective study April 12, 2011, at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Essential tremor, which affects the hands, head and voice, is three times more prevalent than Parkinson's disease. The largely hereditary neurological condition can cause uncontrollable shaking that interferes with normal daily activities such as eating, drinking and getting dressed. Tremors can begin in early adulthood and become more severe as a person grows older.
While medications (primidone, propranolol and/or topiramate) help alleviate essential tremors in some patients, over time many patients discontinue the drugs because their effectiveness wanes or the side effects become intolerable, said USF Health neurologist Theresa Zesiewicz, MD, who was the lead author in developing the AAN's first guidelines for treatment of essential tremor. "Essentially, they just give up trying to treat essential tremor."
The USF study reviewed the charts of 31 patients who underwent unilateral deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery for essential tremor from 2000 to 2010. The therapy uses an implanted device similar to a pacemaker to stimulate a targeted region of the brain with electrical impulses, blocking or correcting abnormal nerve signals that cause the tremors.