Background: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) targeting the ventral intermediate nucleus (Vim) of the thalamus or the posterior subthalamic area (PSA) are effective treatments for essential tremor (ET). However, their relative efficacy is unknown. Objective: Here, we present the first systematic review and network meta-analysis, examining the efficacy of Vim versus PSA DBS for treating medically refractory ET. Methods: We included all primary studies that reported validated Fahn-Tolosa-Marin Tremor Rating Scale (FTM-TRS) scores pre-/postimplantation or on-/off-stimulation postimplantation, for patients receiving either Vim or PSA DBS. The primary outcome was FTM-TRS score reduction; the secondary outcome was percent reduction in score. We categorized all outcomes as short-term (≤12 months) or long-term (>12 months). Results: For pre-/postimplantation comparisons, 19 and 11 studies met inclusion criteria for short- and long-term follow-ups, respectively. For on-/off-stimulation tremor score comparisons, 8 studies met inclusion criteria for short-term follow-up. Network meta-analysis of pre-/postimplantation tremor scores showed greater tremor reduction with PSA implantation short-term (absolute tremor reduction: PSA: −30.94 [95% confidence interval (CI): −34.93, −26.95]; Vim: −26.26 [95% CI: −33.39, −19.12]; relative tremor reduction: PSA: 63.3% [95% CI: 61.8%–64.8%]; Vim: 57.8% [95% CI: 56.5%–59.0%]). However, there was no difference in efficacy between PSA and Vim DBS when comparing tremor on-versus off-stimulation at short-term follow-up or pre- versus postimplantation tremor reduction long-term. Conclusion: Our systematic review highlighted both heterogeneity in scoring systems used and lack of transparency in reporting total scores, limiting direct comparison across studies. We found a modestly superior efficacy with PSA stimulation in the short term, but no difference in tremor reduction long-term.

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