There is a paucity of level-one evidence comparing STN and GPi DBS. Our aim in this prospective blinded randomized trial was to compare the cognitive and mood effects of unilateral subthalamic nucleus (STN) vs. unilateral globus pallidus interna (GPi) deep brain stimulation (DBS) in patients with Parkinson disease (PD).
Fifty-two subjects with moderate-to-advanced PD were randomized to either unilateral STN or GPi DBS. Right or alternatively left sided stimulation was chosen to address the side of the body with the most bothersome symptoms. The co-primary outcome measures were the change in the 8 subscales of the Visual Analog Mood Scale (VAMS), and the change in the 2 versions of verbal fluency (i.e. semantic and letter), at 7 months post-DBS in the optimal setting compared to the pre-DBS state. In addition, at 7 months post-DBS, after subjects underwent initial evaluation off medications and on optimized DBS therapy, they were tested in four randomized and counterbalanced conditions (optimal DBS, ventral DBS, dorsal DBS, and off DBS) while remaining off medication. Secondary outcome measures then compared the differences in the VAMS items and verbal fluency subscales within the 4 DBS conditions at 7 months, and the change in the VAMS items and verbal fluency subscales from the pre-DBS state to the other 3 DBS conditions (ventral, dorsal and off ) at 7 months.
Forty-five subjects (23 GPi and 22 STN) completed the protocol. The study revealed no significant difference between STN and GPi DBS in the change of co-primary mood and cognitive outcomes from pre- to post-DBS in the optimal setting (Hotelling's T2 test: p=0.16 and 0.08 respectively). When comparing the 4 DBS conditions at 7 months, subjects in both targets were less “happy”, less “energetic” and more “confused” when stimulated ventrally to the optimal stimulation site. When comparing the other 3 DBS conditions (ventral, dorsal and off DBS) to the pre-DBS state, the STN group showed a larger deterioration of letter verbal fluency scores than the GPi group, especially in the off DBS state. A 12-point mean improvement in the UPDRS motor subscale was seen post DBS, but there was no significant difference between targets.
There were no significant differences in in the co-primary outcome measures of mood and cognition between STN and GPi in the optimal DBS state.. However, adverse mood effects were noted when stimulating ventrally to the optimal site in both targets. Furthermore, a worsening for letter verbal fluency was noted in the 3 non-optimal post-DBS states in the STN target only. The persistence of deterioration in verbal fluency in the off DBS state at 7 months is, suggestive of a surgical rather than a stimulation-induced effect at the STN target. STN and GPi DBS resulted in similar motor improvement.