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World Neurosurg. 2013 Sep-Oct;80(3-4):S28.e9-19. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2012.10.007. Epub 2012 Oct 6.

Nucleus accumbens surgery for addiction.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Tangdu Hospital, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, People's Republic of China.



Opiate addiction remains intractable in a large percentage of patients, and relapse is the biggest hurdle to recovery because of psychological dependence. Multiple studies identify a central role of the nucleus accumbens (NAc) in addiction; several studies note decreased addictive behavior after interventions in this area.


Based on animal experiments, our institute started the clinical trial for the treatment of drug addicts' psychological dependence by making lesions in the bilateral NAc with stereotactic surgery from July 2000.


The short-term outcomes were encouraging and triggered rapid application of this treatment in China from 2003 to 2004. However, lack of long-term outcomes and controversy eventually led to halting the surgery for addiction by the Ministry of Health of China in November 2004 and a nationwide survey about it later. Our institute had performed this surgery in 272 patients with severe heroin addiction. The follow-up study showed that the 5-year nonrelapse rate was 58% and the quality of life was significantly improved. Patients had several kinds of side effects, but the incidence rate was relatively low. The patients gradually recovered more than 5 years after the surgery. The side effects did not severely influence an individual's life or work. Nationwide surgery showed that the nonrelapse rate was 50% in the sample of 150 cases, from 1167 patients overall who underwent stereotactic surgery in China.


Although sometimes accompanied by neuropsychological adverse events, stereotactic ablation of NAc may effectively treat opiate addiction. Lesion location has a significant impact on treatment efficacy and requires further study. Because ablation is irreversible, the NAc surgery for addiction should be performed with cautiousness, and deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an ideal alternative.


Addiction; DBS; Deep brain stimulation; EPQ; EPQ-N; Eysenck Personality Questionnaire; MRI; Magnetic resonance imaging; N factor of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire; NAc; Nucleus accumbens; Psychological dependence; QOL; Quality of life; Radiofrequency lesion; Relapse; Stereotactic neurosurgery; WHOQOL-BREF; World Health Organization Quality of Life Instrument Abbreviated

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