Outcomes following single-treatment Gamma Knife surgery for trigeminal neuralgia with a minimum 3-year follow-up

Clinical article

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  • 1 Boston Gamma Knife Center at Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts;
  • 2 Department of Neurosurgery, Texas A&M University, Temple, Texas;
  • 3 Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio; and
  • 4 School of Public Health and Health Services, George Washington University, Washington, DC
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Object

Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) has been shown to be effective in treating trigeminal neuralgia (TN). Existing studies have demonstrated success rates of 69.1–85% with median follow-up intervals of 19–60 months. However, series with uniform long-term follow-up data for all patients have been lacking. In the present study the authors examined outcomes in a series of patients with TN who underwent a single GKS treatment followed by a minimum follow-up of 36 months. They used a clinical scale that simplifies the reporting of outcome data for patients with TN.

Methods

Fifty-three consecutive patients with typical, intractable TN received a median maximum radiation dose of 80 Gy applied with a single 4-mm isocenter to the affected trigeminal nerve. Follow-up data were obtained by clinical examination and questionnaire. Outcome results were categorized into the following classes (in order of decreasing success): Class 1A, complete pain relief without medications; 1B, complete pain relief with either a decrease or no change in medications; 1C, ≥ 50% pain relief without medications; 1D, ≥ 50% pain relief with either a decrease or no change in medications; and Class 2, < 50% pain relief and/or increase in medications. Patients with Class 1A–1D outcome (equivalent to Barrow Neurological Institute Grades I–IIIb) were considered to have a good treatment outcome, whereas in patients with Class 2 outcome (equivalent to Barrow Neurological Institute Grades IV and V) treatment was considered to have failed.

Results

A good treatment outcome from initial GKS was achieved in 31 (58.5%) patients for whom the mean follow-up period was 48 months (range 36–66 months). Outcomes at last follow-up were reflected by class status: Class 1A, 32.1% of patients; 1B, 1.9%; 1C, 3.8%; 1D, 20.8%; and Class 2, 41.5%. Statistical analysis showed no difference in outcomes between patients previously treated with microvascular decompression or rhizotomy compared with patients with no previous surgical treatments. Thirty-six percent of patients reported some degree of posttreatment facial numbness. Anesthesia dolorosa did not develop in any patient.

Conclusions

Despite a time-dependent deterioration in the success rate of GKS for medically intractable TN, the authors' study showed that > 50% of patients can be expected to have a good outcome based on their scoring system, with ~ 33% having an ideal outcome (pain free with no need for medications). Long-term data, as those presented here, are important when counseling patients on their treatment options.

Abbreviations used in this paper: BNI = Barrow Neurological Institute; GKS = Gamma Knife surgery; MS = multiple sclerosis; MVD = microvascular decompression; TN = trigeminal neuralgia.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Ron I. Riesenburger, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02111. email: rriesenburger@tuftsmedicalcenter.org.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online September 25, 2009; DOI: 10.3171/2009.8.JNS081706.

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