STN-DBS Leads to Similar Benefits in Men and Women with Parkinson’s, Study Finds

Joana Carvalho, PhD avatar

by Joana Carvalho, PhD |

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Apart from physical health-related quality of life — which seemed to improve to a greater extent in males — the benefits of subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulation (STN-DBS) on motor, cognitive, and mental function are similar in men and women with Parkinson’s disease, a study has found.

The study, “Sex differences in the short-term and long-term effects of subthalamic nucleus stimulation in Parkinson’s disease,” was published in Parkinsonism and Related Disorders.

STN-DBS is a non-destructive surgical treatment for Parkinson’s disease that involves implanting a device to stimulate targeted regions of the brain with electrical impulses generated by a battery-operated neurostimulator.

Since its implementation, STN-DBS has become an accepted and effective therapeutic option to treat motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s. It also is used to treat other complications caused by prolonged dopaminergic treatment in advanced forms of the disease.

“There have been discussions on the influence of sex on the effect of STN-DBS in PD. Several short-term studies have suggested that overall improvements in motor and non-motor symptoms following STN-DBS are similar between male and female PD patients, whereas the short-term results on sex differences in postoperative health-related quality of life (HRQoL) are inconsistent,” the researchers said.

In this study, a team of Korean scientists set out to investigate the influence of sex on short- and long-term effects of STN-DBS in Parkinson’s.

The prospective study analyzed the medical records of 48 men and 52 women with the disease who received STN-DBS between 2005 and 2013 at the Movement Disorder Center of Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) and were followed for at least five years.

The patients’ motor, cognitive and mental function, as well as health-related quality of life, or HRQoL, were assessed in all participants at the start of the treatment (baseline), and at one and five years of follow-up. HRQoL was assessed using the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), which contains physical and mental component subscores.

With the exception of the physical component of the SF-36, no differences were found between men and women in the effects of STN-DBS on any of the clinical parameters from baseline to follow-up.

STN-DBS led to significant improvements in the physical component of the SF-36 in individuals from both sexes from baseline to one year of follow-up. However, this positive effect was more pronounced among men than among women.

In addition, the researchers found that improvements in the physical component of the SF-36 from baseline to five years of follow-up were only statistically significant in men.

“In conclusion, we found that STN-DBS led to a similar degree of short-term and long-term effects on motor function, depressive and cognitive symptoms, and functional status between male and female PD patients,” the researchers said.

“Nevertheless, the physical HRQoL appears to improve to a greater extent in men over a long-term observation,” they concluded.

The researchers said further studies are warranted “to reveal the precise mechanism underlying the sex-associated differences in postoperative HRQoL, and to design an effective strategy to improve HRQoL in women undergoing STN-DBS.”

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