Adoption of focused ultrasound thalamotomy for essential tremor: why so much fuss about FUS?

Background

Focused ultrasound (FUS) was approved as a new treatment modality for essential tremor (ET) in 2016. The goal of this study was to quantify FUS adoption for ET and understand its drivers.

Methods

The adoption of the various surgical options for ET was estimated using three measures: the number of presentations on the various surgical treatments for ET at specialised international meetings, the number of original papers published as identified by literature searches and the number of thalamotomy procedures performed worldwide for ET as provided by device manufacturers’ registries.

Results

First, we found that the number of presentations related to lesioning procedures is increasing relative to deep brain stimulation (DBS) at international meetings. Second, there are already more publications on FUS (93) than stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) (68) or radiofrequency (43) for ET, although they still lag behind DBS papers (750). Third, the number of annual FUS thalamotomies performed for ET (n>1200 in 2019) in 44 centres has surpassed the annual procedures across 342 Gamma Knife units (n<400, 2018) but is yet to reach the number of DBS cases for ET estimated at over 2400/year.

Conclusion

FUS is being rapidly adopted for the treatment of ET. We hypothesise that its perceived minimally invasive nature coupled with the ability to perform intraoperative clinical assessments, its immediate effects and active marketing efforts are contributing factors. As lesioning modalities for the treatment of ET are reappraised, the superior popularity of FUS over SRS appears to arise for reasons other than differences in clinical outcomes.

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