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Idiopathic Parkinson’s Tremors: Treatment Options

Idiopathic Parkinson’s Tremors: Treatment Options

The study examines the clinical importance of tremors in idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (iPD) and the difficulties encountered in their management. It underscores the diversity of iPD patients and the various symptoms they experience, notably tremors, which significantly affect their quality of life. Despite historical efforts to alleviate tremors, recent advancements in pharmacology have proven to be limited. The absence of a comprehensive understanding of the brain’s mechanisms behind tremors has compounded this challenge. 

Although invasive treatments such as deep brain stimulation can be efficacious, they entail risks and financial considerations. A significant number of iPD patients with severe tremors face challenges in finding effective treatments due to the absence of evidence-based recommendations. In response to this issue, the researchers conducted a systematic literature review to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of non-lesional treatment options for tremors associated with iPD.

Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (iPD)

In idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (iPD), patients can experience bradykinesia, rigidity, tremor, or a combination of these symptoms, leading to clinical heterogeneity. Tremor in iPD is highly prevalent and significantly affects patients’ quality of life, despite being a key symptom. Surprisingly, it can also pose challenges for physicians in managing symptoms.

In the annals of medical history, the 19th century serves as a crucial backdrop to the early attempts at addressing the challenges posed by idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (iPD). During this era, the primary objective of treatment was to alleviate the distressing symptoms of this condition, notably the involuntary rhythmic tremors that afflicted individuals, especially during periods of rest. It’s fascinating to think about the limited arsenal of medical tools available at that time.

Fast-forward to the present, and we find ourselves in a vastly different medical landscape. Over the past few decades, there have been remarkable advancements in our understanding of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and the development of therapeutic approaches. However, when it comes to the specific realm of pharmacological tremor control, a major breakthrough remains somewhat elusive.

While we’ve witnessed the emergence of various therapies and medications tailored to address different aspects of Parkinson’s disease, the quest for a definitive pharmacological solution to effectively curb these troublesome tremors has not yet yielded a groundbreaking discovery. This absence of a singular, transformative treatment option underscores the complexity of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and its multifaceted nature.

Researchers, healthcare professionals, and pharmaceutical experts continue to explore innovative avenues and novel compounds in the pursuit of enhanced tremor control. The hope is that through ongoing research and clinical trials, we may eventually unlock the secrets of more targeted and effective pharmacological interventions. Until then, the journey to conquer idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and its accompanying tremors persists, driven by a commitment to improving the quality of life for those affected by this challenging condition.

One potential reason for the ongoing challenge in treating tremors lies in the limited understanding of its underlying causes. Aberrant brain networks, including the basal ganglia, cerebral cortex, and cerebellum, play a role in generating and modulating tremors. This has led to promising treatments like focused ultrasound or deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, targeting key network nodes, especially for patients with insufficient symptom control. However, it’s important to note that not all patients are suitable for or willing to undergo invasive treatments due to potential risks and costs.

For iPD patients with severe tremors where invasive therapies aren’t an option, the journey through the healthcare system can be prolonged and frustrating, often involving ineffective medications. This challenge is exacerbated by the lack of evidence-based recommendations for effective tremor management. Consequently, researchers conducted a systematic literature review to assess non-lesional treatment options for iPD-related tremors, aiming to compare their efficacy, effectiveness, and safety.

Study Methods

The research team conducted a thorough search across three electronic databases, employing a combination of keywords found in the titles and abstracts. They also undertook manual searches of reference lists. In total, 114 studies meeting their inclusion criteria, involving 8045 patients, were included in the analysis. 

Their review encompassed studies involving adult participants who had received a diagnosis of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease in various clinical settings. In cases where the participant pool consisted of a mix of individuals, the criterion for inclusion was that over 80% of the participants had a confirmed diagnosis of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, or the study provided separate results for this specific patient population. Moreover, they required that each study involved a minimum of ten participants, with no specific mandates regarding the presence of a control group.

The studies they considered eligible were those that explored the efficacy and effectiveness of various therapeutic options for managing tremors in iPD. These options included a range of treatments, such as orally or enterally administered medications, local administration of botulinum toxin, and physiotherapeutic interventions, among others. It was noteworthy that their inclusion criteria did not discriminate between studies that assessed tremor as a primary or secondary outcome. However, they excluded studies that involved lesional interventions like deep brain stimulation (DBS) or focused ultrasound.

Their inclusion criteria encompassed a wide array of study designs, including experimental and quasi-experimental approaches, while excluding review articles, letters, editorials, and conference abstracts. Their primary focus for the meta-analysis centered on specific scores derived from the Movement Disorder Society (MDS) Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), namely items 2.10 and 3.15 to 3.18 according to one version of the scale, or items 2.16, 3.20, and 3.21 according to another version of the UPDRS. They also considered secondary outcomes, which included various measures related to clinical and tremor-related endpoints, such as tremor amplitude and frequency, as well as subjective measures like patient satisfaction. Lastly, they conducted a comparative analysis of the prevalence of side effects in randomized controlled trials (RCTs).


The results of their meta-analysis revealed a significant overall reduction in standardized mean change scores, with a value of -0.93 (95% confidence interval: -1.42 to -0.43, p < 0.001). This comprehensive analysis encompassed 14 different classes of agents, including both dopaminergic and non-dopaminergic ones. Interestingly, when direct comparisons were made among these agents, no significant differences emerged.

However, upon further subgroup analysis, particularly in the context of comparing dopamine receptor agonists, the research team found that pramipexole and rotigotine exhibited superior effects compared to ropinirole. It’s noteworthy that the cumulative evidence supporting the use of individual non-pharmacological interventions for tremors was limited, with the exception of electrical stimulation.

Through database searches and manual reviews of references and citation lists in significant reviews, a total of 11,467 records were identified. Following the removal of duplicate entries and the initial screening based on titles and abstracts, a full-text screening was carried out on 492 articles. Regrettably, among these articles, 380 had to be excluded for various reasons.

They incorporated 114 publications that presented findings from studies conducted across different regions: Europe (54 studies), Asia (30 studies), North America (21 studies), Central and South America (2 studies), and New Zealand (1 study). Additionally, six studies were cross-continental multicenter endeavors. The sample sizes exhibited significant variation, spanning from 10 to 643 patients. In aggregate, their systematic review encompassed 8045 participants. 

Of the 82 studies investigating the efficacy of medical agents, 36 studies were rated as high quality, achieving a summary score of 70% and higher, 21 were rated between 50 and 70% (medium quality), and 25 studies were of low quality (below 50%).

Final Thoughts

The findings from this meta-analysis indicate a significant yet not specifically targeted impact of established pharmacological treatments on tremors in individuals with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (iPD). Based on well-conducted studies of high quality, there is enough substantiated evidence to affirm that levodopa, dopamine receptor agonists, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors effectively alleviate tremors in the majority of patients. 

However, the level of evidence supporting the effectiveness of other treatments is less firmly established. Notably, there is insufficient evidence to make definitive conclusions regarding the effects of non-lesional treatments in cases of refractory tremor.

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