What is thalamotomy?

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Thalamotomy for Parkinson's disease: Overview

Thalamotomy is surgery to destroy a tiny area of the brain called the thalamus that controls some involuntary movements. Before surgery, detailed brain scans using a CT scan or an MRI are done to find the precise location for treatment.

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.


Thalamotomy (thalamic ablation) is a procedure that destroys a small portion of the thalamus. The thalamus is a tiny area deep within the brain. It sends and receives sensory and motor (movement) information.

The procedure may help some people who have severe muscle tremors related to Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, or certain other health problems. Thalamotomy can prevent abnormal brain activity from reaching the muscles and causing tremors.

How well does a thalamotomy for Parkinson's disease work?

In most people, thalamotomy can improve tremor. There is no evidence that it works for other symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

What are the risks of a thalamotomy for Parkinson's disease?

Permanent problems from thalamotomy can include:

  • Trouble moving one side of the body.
  • Trouble with speech.
  • Problems with balance.
  • Trouble thinking or problem-solving.

Short-term problems can include:

  • Motor problems (trouble moving like you want to).
  • Trouble speaking well.
  • Weakness.
  • Confusion.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Weakness of the facial muscles that can cause drooping.

What can you expect as you recover from a thalamotomy for Parkinson's disease?

The surgery usually requires a 2-day hospital stay. Most people recover completely within about 6 weeks.

Why is a thalamotomy for Parkinson's disease done?

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 doesn't help with slow movement (bradykinesia), speech problems, or trouble with walking. Deep brain stimulation is often used instead of thalamotomy, because it doesn't destroy brain tissue and it has fewer side effects.

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