Safety and Feasibility of Nucleus Accumbens Surgery for Drug Addiction: A Systematic Review

Paula Alejandra Navarro, Thiago Paranhos, Eduardo Lovo, Ricardo De Oliveira-Souza, Alessandra A. Gorgulho, Antônio De Salles, William Omar Contreras López

Research output: Articles / NotesArticle in a non-specialized journalpeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Substance addiction encompasses the incapacity to discontinue urgent drug use; many severely disabled patients might be considered appropriate candidates for surgery due to the high rates of relapse despite conservative treatment. A crucial finding in the brain of these patients is increased extracellular concentrations of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). Objectives: To determine the efficacy and safety of NAcc surgery for the treatment of substance dependence. Materials and Methods: Adhering to PRISMA guidelines, we performed a systematic review to identify all original studies in which NAcc surgery was performed to treat relapsing drug addiction with a minimum follow-up of six months. From database inception to April 10, 2020, we searched PubMed, Scopus, and LILACS. Two reviewers independently selected studies and extracted data. The main outcome was the relapse rate. The GRADE methods were applied to evaluate the quality of evidence. This study was registered with PROSPERO CRD42020177054. Results: Fifteen studies involving 359 participants met inclusion criteria; eight (56%) included NAcc deep brain stimulation (DBS) in 13 patients with addiction for alcohol (N = 6, 46.1%), opioid (N = 4, 30.7%), and nicotine (N = 3, 15.3%); seven studies (N = 346, 44%) performed NAcc radiofrequency (RF) ablation for opioid (N = 334) and alcohol (N = 12) dependence. Relapse rates were 38.4% for DBS and 39% for RF ablation. Conclusions: Despite available studies reporting a benefit in the treatment of drug addictions with NAcc surgery, this systematic review stresses the need for carefully planned prospective studies in order to further address the efficacy and indications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-184
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Addictive
  • behavior
  • deep brain stimulation
  • neurosurgical procedures
  • nucleus accumbens
  • substance-related disorders


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