Improved Vim targeting for focused ultrasound ablation treatment of essential tremor: A probabilistic and patient-specific approach

Jason H. Su, Eun Young Choi, Thomas Tourdias, Manojkumar Saranathan, Casey H. Halpern, Jaimie M. Henderson, Kim Butts Pauly, Pejman Ghanouni, Brian K. Rutt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) ablation of the ventral intermediate (Vim) thalamic nucleus is an incisionless treatment for essential tremor (ET). The standard initial targeting method uses an approximate, atlas-based stereotactic approach. We developed a new patient-specific targeting method to identify an individual's Vim and the optimal MRgFUS target region therein for suppression of tremor. In this retrospective study of 14 ET patients treated with MRgFUS, we investigated the ability of WMnMPRAGE, a highly sensitive and robust sequence for imaging gray matter-white matter contrast, to identify the Vim, FUS ablation, and a clinically efficacious region within the Vim in individual patients. We found that WMnMPRAGE can directly visualize the Vim in ET patients, segmenting this nucleus using manual or automated segmentation capabilities developed by our group. WMnMPRAGE also delineated the ablation's core and penumbra, and showed that all patients' ablation cores lay primarily within their Vim segmentations. We found no significant correlations between standard ablation features (e.g., ablation volume, Vim-ablation overlap) and 1-month post-treatment clinical outcome. We then defined a group-based probabilistic target, which was nonlinearly warped to individual brains; this target was located within the Vim for all patients. The overlaps between this target and patient ablation cores correlated significantly with 1-month clinical outcome (r = −.57, p =.03), in contrast to the standard target (r = −.23, p =.44). We conclude that WMnMPRAGE is a highly sensitive sequence for segmenting Vim and ablation boundaries in individual patients, allowing us to find a novel tremor-associated center within Vim and potentially improving MRgFUS treatment for ET.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4769-4788
Number of pages20
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number17
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • 7T MRI
  • MR guided focused ultrasound
  • Vim
  • essential tremor
  • surgical targeting
  • thalamus
  • white matter nulled MPRAGE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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