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June 1994

Four-Year Follow-up of Adrenal-to-Brain Transplants in Parkinson's Disease

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Neurology (Ms Diamond and Drs Markham and Treciokas) and Surgery (Neurosurgery) (Dr Becker), University of California-Los Angeles School of Medicine; and The Neurosciences Institute, The Hospital of the Good Samaritan, Los Angeles (Dr Rand).

Arch Neurol. 1994;51(6):559-563. doi:10.1001/archneur.1994.00540180037011

Objective:  Evaluate long-term efficacy of autologous adrenal-to-caudate transplants in idiopathic Parkinson's disease refractory to medical treatment.

Design:  Subjects underwent evaluations several times preoperatively on the University of California-Los Angeles Parkinson's Disease Disability Scale and the Hoehn and Yahr stage of disease. Postoperatively, they were also repeatedly rated on the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale.

Setting:  Clinical visits and surgery took place at the University of California—Los Angeles Center for the Health Sciences.

Patients:  Three men and one woman, ages 44 to 55 years, were followed up for several years preoperatively. At surgery, disease durations ranged from 7 to 16 years. Originally, all patients had a good response to levodopa, but for several years preoperatively, they had had fluctuating responses and a short duration of drug action.

Intervention:  Right adrenalectomy was performed through a midline abdominal incision. Open craniotomy exposed the head of the right caudate into which pieces of adrenal medulla, 1 to 2 mm in size, were implanted.

Main Outcome Measures:  Scores on the three major scales (see "Design") were augmented with the number of hours "off" per day and severity of abnormal involuntary movements. Disease progression of each patient was compared with his own preoperative course and with those of a cohort of patients with Parkinson's disease followed up for 14 years who had received medical treatment without transplant surgery.

Results:  After 4 years, transplants continued to be beneficial to three patients and had been of brief transient benefit to the fourth. The course of disease was more benign postoperatively than preoperatively and was more slowly progressive than that in the cohort.

Conclusion:  Improvement was not sufficient to justify adrenal transplants as routine therapy but does point the way to the use of other dopamine tissue transplantation.

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