Skip to Content
Thalamotomy is the precise destruction of a
tiny area of the brain called the thalamus that controls some involuntary
movements. Before surgery, detailed brain scans using a
CT scan or
MRI are done to identify the precise location for
The person is awake during the surgery, but the scalp
area where instruments are inserted is numbed with a local anesthetic. The
surgeon inserts a hollow probe through a small hole drilled in the skull to the
target location. An extremely cold substance, liquid nitrogen, is circulated
inside the probe. The cold probe destroys the targeted brain tissue. The probe
is then removed, and the wound is closed.
Surgery on one side of
the brain affects the opposite side of the body. If you have tremor in your
right hand, for instance, the left side of your brain will be treated. The
procedure can be repeated on the other side of the brain if needed, but it
greatly increases the risk of speech and cognitive problems after
The surgery usually requires a 2-day
hospital stay. Most people recover completely within about 6 weeks.
Thalamotomy is rarely done today. It may be used to
treat severe tremor on one side of the body (most often in an arm or leg) that
does not respond to medicines. It does not help with slow movement
(bradykinesia), speech problems, or walking difficulties.
Thalamotomy may help tremor. There is no evidence it works for other symptoms of Parkinson's disease.footnote 1
This type of brain surgery is less risky today
than it was in the past. Technology allows the surgeon to identify with
great precision the area of the brain that will be treated. Serious, permanent
complications are uncommon.
Complications of thalamotomy can
Thalamotomy is rarely used. The
effectiveness, lower risk, and nondestructive nature of deep brain stimulation
have made it the preferred surgical method for treating Parkinson's disease.
Even for cases in which deep brain stimulation is not an option, thalamotomy is
used less often than pallidotomy, because pallidotomy can improve a broader
range of symptoms. Thalamotomy can reduce tremor, but it does not have
a strong effect on other symptoms of the disease or on involuntary movements
(dyskinesias) caused by long-term levodopa therapy.
may be considered as an addition to levodopa therapy, not as a replacement for
it. It does not cure Parkinson's disease and does not eliminate the need for
medicine. After surgery, treatment with levodopa will be continued and the
dose adjusted as needed.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Clarke CE, Moore AP (2007). Parkinson's disease, search date November 2006. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerG. Frederick Wooten, MD - Neurology
Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015
Current as of:
February 20, 2015
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & G. Frederick Wooten, MD - Neurology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
© Copyright 2016 Rush-Copley Medical Center • 2000 Ogden Avenue; Aurora, IL 60504
Main: 630-978-6200 • Physician Referral & Information: 630-978-6700 or 866-4COPLEY (866-426-7539)