Chronic subthalamic nucleus stimulation reduces medication requirements in Parkinson's disease

E. Moro, M. Scerrati, L. M A Romito, R. Roselli, P. Tonali, Alberto Albanese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To reduce antiparkinsonian medication in parkinsonian patients with bilateral high frequency subthalamic nucleus (STN) stimulation. Background: Parkinsonian syndromes are characterized by hyperactivity of the STN. Preliminary data indicate that functional inactivation of the STN may reduce the requirement for dopaminergic therapy in PD. Methods: Bilateral quadripolar leads were implanted stereotactically in the STN of seven patients with advanced PD (mean age, 57.4 years; mean disease duration, 15.4 years). High-frequency stimulation was applied for 24 hours a day. Following implantation, antiparkinsonian medication was reduced to the minimum possible and stimulation was gradually increased. The patients were evaluated in the practically defined 'off' and 'on' conditions using the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) and the Schwab and England scale. The average follow-up was 16.3 ± 7.6 months. A battery of neuropsychological tests was applied before and 9 months after the implant. Results: Parkinsonian features improved in all patients - the greatest change seen in rigidity, then tremor, followed by bradykinesia. Compared with the presurgical condition, off-drug UPDRS motor scores improved by 41.9% on the last visit (p = 0.0002), UPDRS activities of daily living (ADL) scores improved by 52.2% (p = 0.0002), and the Schwab and England scale score improved by 213% (p = 0.0002). The levodopa-equivalent daily dose was reduced by 65%. Night sleep improved in all patients due to increased mobility at night, and in five patients insomnia was resolved. All patients gained weight after surgery and their appetite increased. The mean weight gain at the last follow-up was 13% compared with before surgery. During the last visit, the stimulation amplitude was 2.9 ± 0.5 V and the total energy delivered per patient averaged 2.7 ± 1.4 W x 10-6. The results of patient self-assessment scales indicated a marked improvement in five patients and a moderate improvement in the other two. The neuropsychological data showed no changes. Side effects were mild and tolerable. In all cases, a tradeoff between the optimal voltage and the severity of side effects made it possible to control parkinsonian signs effectively. The most marked side effects directly related to STN stimulation consisted of ballistic or choreic dyskinesias of the neck and the limbs elicited by contralateral STN stimulation above a given threshold voltage, which varied depending on the individual. Conclusions: Parkinsonian signs can be controlled by bilateral high-frequency STN stimulation. The procedure is well tolerated. On-state dyskinesias were greatly reduced, probably due to the reduction of total antiparkinsonian medication. Bilateral high-frequency STN stimulation compensated for drug reduction and elicited dyskinesias, which differ from those observed following dopaminergic medication. ADL improved significantly, suggesting that some motor tasks performed during everyday chores, and that are not taken into account in the UPDRS motor score, also improved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-90
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 13 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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