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Handb Clin Neurol. 2013;116:63-71. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53497-2.00006-1.

Therapeutic stimulation versus ablation.

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Department of Neurosurgery, UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, UK.


The renaissance of functional stereotactic neurosurgery was pioneered in the mid 1980s by Laitinen's introduction of Leksell's posteroventral pallidotomy for Parkinson´s disease (PD). This ablative procedure experienced a worldwide spread in the 1990s, owing to its excellent effect on dyskinesias and other symptoms of post-l-dopa PD. Modern deep brain stimulation (DBS), pioneered by Benabid and Pollak in 1987 for the treatment of tremor, first became popular when it was applied to the subthalamic nucleus (STN) in the mid 1990s, where it demonstrated a striking effect on all cardinal symptoms of advanced PD, and permitted reduced dosages of medication. DBS, as a nondestructive, adaptable, and reversible procedure that is proving safe in bilateral surgery on basal ganglia, has great appeal to clinicians and patients alike, despite the fact that it is expensive, laborious, and relies on very strict patient selection criteria, especially for STN DBS. Psychiatric surgery has experienced the same phenomenon, with DBS supplanting completely stereotactic ablative procedures. This chapter discusses the pros and cons of ablation versus stimulation and investigates the reasons why DBS has overshadowed proven efficient ablative procedures such as pallidotomy for PD, and capsulotomy and cingulotomy for obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.


Parkinson´s disease; capsulotomy; cingulotomy; deep brain stimulation; neuroethics; pallidotomy; psychosurgery; stereotactic surgery; subthalamic nucleus

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