Anodic versus cathodic neurostimulation of the subthalamic nucleus: A randomized-controlled study of acute clinical effects

Anna Dalal Kirsch, Sharon Hassin-Baer, Cordula Matthies, Jens Volkmann, Frank Steigerwald*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Stimulation settings of deep brain stimulation (DBS) have evolved empirically within a limited parameter space dictated by first generation devices. There is a need for controlled clinical studies, which evaluate efficacy and safety of established programming practice against novel programming options provided by modern neurostimulation devices. Methods: Here, we tested a polarity reversal from conventional monopolar cathodic to anodic stimulation in an acute double-blind, randomized, cross-over study in patients with PD implanted with bilateral STN DBS. The primary outcome measure was the difference between efficacy and side-effect thresholds (current amplitude, mA) in a monopolar review and the severity of motor symptoms (as assessed by MDS-UPDRS III ratings) after 30 min of continuous stimulation in the medication off-state. Results: Effect and side effect thresholds were significantly higher with anodic compared to cathodic stimulation (3.36 ± 1.58 mA vs. 1.99 ± 1.37 mA; 6.05 ± 1.52 mA vs. 4.15 ± 1.13 mA; both p < 0.0001). However, using a predefined amplitude of 0.5 mA below the respective adverse effect threshold, blinded MDS-UPDRS-III-ratings were significantly lower with anodic stimulation (anodic: median 17 [min: 12, max: 25]; cathodic: 23 [12, 37]; p < 0.005). Conclusion: Effective anodic stimulation requires a higher charge injection into the tissue, but may provide a better reduction of off-period motor symptoms within the individual therapeutic window. Therefore, a programming change to anodic stimulation may be considered in patients suffering from residual off-period motor symptoms of PD despite reaching the adverse effect threshold of cathodic stimulation in the subthalamic nucleus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-67
Number of pages7
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
StatePublished - Oct 2018


FundersFunder number
Boston Scientific Corporation


    • Anodic stimulation
    • Deep brain stimulation
    • Parkinson's disease
    • Subthalamic nucleus


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