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Deep brain stimulation may help MS tremors, but not without adverse affects

A new review study has found that deep brain stimulation (DBS) can reduce tremors in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), but treatment may lead to speech problems and other symptoms worsening. 

DBS is used for Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor and has been given to people for MS-related tremors when other treatments haven’t worked. 

Electrodes are implanted surgically into the brain and electric impulses stimulate the thalamus – the area involved in motor function. The operation is a risk for brain bleeding and infection, however, and patients have been known to develop further problems such as swallowing difficulties and speech and balance problems.

A team of researchers in Iran conducted a meta-analysis of 17 studies featuring 162 MS patients that took place between 1998 and 2018. Across the cases, they found pooled rate of tremor reduction was 73% with DBS treatment. 

The most frequently reported adverse events were worsening MS or relapse, found in 13 participants, speaking difficulties, found in seven people, and seizures, which six people experienced. Five patients had infections.

The researchers wrote that their meta-analysis found DBS does improve MS-related tremor. However, because of the large differences in follow-up duration between the studies, the different standards of tremor assessments, and the low number of patients included, larger, standardised studies are required to better understand and assess DBS treatment for MS.

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