Deep brain stimulation could be an effective treatment option for severe Tourette’s syndrome

Written by Hannah Makin

A recent study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery suggests that deep brain stimulation (DBS) could be used to treat the symptoms of severe Tourette’s syndrome (TS) in young adults. These findings support a growing body of literature for the use of DBS against TS, and may be the next important step towards its approval by the FDA.
In this investigation, researchers at the New York University Langone Medical Center (NY, USA) performed a retrospective study on 13 patients who had undergone medial thalamic DBS.

Patient assessments used the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (YGTSS) and enabled researchers to compare pre- and post-operative symptoms.

The patients’ ages ranged from 16 to 33 years of age and only those with a minimum of 6 months’ worth of follow-up outpatient visits after DBS were examined.

The study demonstrated that between the time of the surgical procedure and the first follow-up visit, there was an average decrease in tic severity by 37%. By the time of the latest follow-up visit, tic severity scores decreased by an average of 50%, indicating that this technique significantly reduces the severity of TS symptoms.

Associate professor and director of the University’s Center for Neuromodulation, Alon Mogilner, commented on these findings: “Our study shows that deep brain stimulation is a safe, effective treatment for young adults with severe Tourette syndrome that cannot be managed with current therapies. This treatment has the potential to improve the quality of life for patients who are debilitated through their teenage years and young adulthood.”

Additionally, 6 months after the DBS was performed, all patients reported in a survey that their symptoms were either “very much” or “much” improved in comparison to before the procedure.

Even those who had experienced a significantly less pronounced response to treatment or had experienced some device-related complication, as well as all other patients, confirmed that they would have the operation again.

Mogilner’s colleague and co-director of the Center for Neuromodulation, Michael Pourfar, commented on the significance of these results: “The survey represents an important aspect of the study, because the YGTSS, though a validated scale, may not fully capture the impact of DBS on quality of life for a person with Tourette syndrome.”

Sources: Dowd RS, Pourfar M, Mogilner AY. Deep brain stimulation for Tourette syndrome: a single-center series. J. Neurosurg. doi:10.3171/2016.10.JNS161573 (2017) (Epub ahead of print);