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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2001 May;70(5):666-71.

Immediate and long term outcome after infrathalamic and thalamic lesioning for intractable Tourette's syndrome.

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Department of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, Albert-Ludwig University, Breisacher Strasse 64 Neurozentrum, Freiburg 79106, Germany.



The surgical treatment of intractable Tourette's syndrome is controversial. Experience with 17 consecutive patients treated between 1970 and 1998 is reviewed and the efficacy and safety of surgical treatment is assessed.


These patients were retrospectively reclassified into subtypes according to the protocol of the Tourette's Syndrome Study Group. One patient was excluded from the study. Ventriculography based stereotactic zona incerta (ZI) and ventrolateral/ lamella medialis thalamotomy (VL/LM) were performed on all patients. The preoperative, postoperative, and late tic severities were assessed by the tic severity rating scale. The median follow up of 11 patients (65%) was 7 years (range 3.5-17 years) and six patients were lost to long term follow up.


Median age was 23 years (range 11-40) at the time of surgery. Median duration of illness was 14 years (range 3-33). The mean preoperative motor and vocal tic severities were estimated to be 4.44 (SD 0.63) and 3.81 (SD 0.66), respectively. Unilateral ZI lesioning and VL/LM lesioning selected by asymmetry of symptoms provide an effective control of tic severity (p motor and vocal<0.001). In attenuation of contralateral symptoms, a second surgical intervention in the relevant side could reduce tic severity sufficiently (p motor<0.01; p vocal<0.005). Transient complications occurred in 68% of patients. Only one permanent complication was registered in six patients followed up after unilateral surgery. Two out of five patients followed up after bilateral surgery had disabling side effects of surgery.


ZI and VL/LM lesioning provide a significant long term reduction of tic severity in intractable Tourette's syndrome. Adequate selection of the side of first intervention might prevent the patient from increased risk of bilateral surgery.

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