Stereotactic radiosurgery for trigeminal neuralgia: a multiinstitutional study using the gamma unit

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  • 1 Departments of Neurological Surgery and Radiation Oncology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Northwest Hospital Gamma Knife Center, Seattle, Washington; Good Samaritan Hospital, Los Angeles, California; Department of Stereotactic Neurosurgery, Hôpital de la Timone, Marseille, France; and Department of Neurosurgery, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
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✓ A multiinstitutional study was conducted to evaluate the technique, dose-selection parameters, and results of gamma knife stereotactic radiosurgery in the management of trigeminal neuralgia. Fifty patients at five centers underwent radiosurgery performed with a single 4-mm isocenter targeted at the nerve root entry zone. Thirty-two patients had undergone prior surgery, and the mean number of procedures that had been performed was 2.8 (range 1–7). The target dose of the radiosurgery used in the current study varied from 60 to 90 Gy. The median follow-up period after radiosurgery was 18 months (range 11–36 months). Twenty-nine patients (58%) responded with excellent control (pain free), 18 (36%) obtained good control (50%–90% relief), and three (6%) experienced treatment failure. The median time to pain relief was 1 month (range 1 day–6.7 months). Responses remained consistent for up to 3 years postradiosurgery in all cases except three (6%) in which the patients had pain recurrence at 5, 7, and 10 months. At 2 years, 54% of patients were pain free and 88% had 50% to 100% relief.

A maximum radiosurgical dose of 70 Gy or greater was associated with a significantly greater chance of complete pain relief (72% vs. 9%, p = 0.0003). Three patients (6%) developed increased facial paresthesia after radiosurgery, which resolved totally in one case and improved in another. No patient developed other deficits or deafferentation pain. The proximal trigeminal nerve and root entry zone, which is well defined on magnetic resonance imaging, is an appropriate anatomical target for radiosurgery. Radiosurgery using the gamma unit is an additional effective surgical approach for the management of medically or surgically refractory trigeminal neuralgia. A longer-term follow-up review is warranted.

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