Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a chronic pain condition that is difficult to control with conservative management. Furthermore, disabling medication-related side effects are common. This study examined how stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) affects pain outcomes and medication dependence based on the latency period between diagnosis and radiosurgery.
The authors conducted a retrospective analysis of patients with type I TN at 12 Gamma Knife treatment centers. SRS was the primary surgical intervention in all patients. Patient demographics, disease characteristics, treatment plans, medication histories, and outcomes were reviewed.
Overall, 404 patients were included. The mean patient age at SRS was 70 years, and 60% of the population was female. The most common indication for SRS was pain refractory to medications (81%). The median maximum radiation dose was 80 Gy (range 50–95 Gy), and the mean follow-up duration was 32 months. The mean number of medications between baseline (pre-SRS) and the last follow-up decreased from 1.98 to 0.90 (p < 0.0001), respectively, and this significant reduction was observed across all medication categories. Patients who received SRS within 4 years of their initial diagnosis achieved significantly faster pain relief than those who underwent treatment after 4 years (median 21 vs 30 days, p = 0.041). The 90-day pain relief rate for those who received SRS ≤ 4 years after their diagnosis was 83.8% compared with 73.7% in patients who received SRS > 4 years after their diagnosis. The maximum radiation dose was the strongest predictor of a durable pain response (OR 1.091, p = 0.003). Early intervention (OR 1.785, p = 0.007) and higher maximum radiation dose (OR 1.150, p < 0.0001) were also significant predictors of being pain free (a Barrow Neurological Institute pain intensity score of I–IIIA) at the last follow-up visit. New sensory symptoms of any kind were seen in 98 patients (24.3%) after SRS. Higher maximum radiation dose trended toward predicting new sensory deficits but was nonsignificant (p = 0.075).
TN patients managed with SRS within 4 years of diagnosis experienced a shorter interval to pain relief with low risk. SRS also yielded significant decreases in adjunct medication utilization. Radiosurgery should be considered earlier in the course of treatment for TN.