Top 25 Cited Gamma Knife® Surgery Articles - Trigeminal Neuralgia

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Douglas Kondziolka, Oscar Zorro, Javier Lobato-Polo, Hideyuki Kano, Thomas J. Flannery, John C. Flickinger, and L. Dade Lunsford


Trigeminal neuralgia pain causes severe disability. Stereotactic radiosurgery is the least invasive surgical option for patients with trigeminal neuralgia. Since different medical and surgical options have different rates of pain relief and morbidity, it is important to evaluate longer-term outcomes.


The authors retrospectively reviewed outcomes in 503 medically refractory patients with trigeminal neuralgia who underwent Gamma Knife surgery (GKS). The median patient age was 72 years (range 26–95 years). Prior surgery had failed in 205 patients (43%). The GKS typically was performed using MR imaging guidance, a single 4-mm isocenter, and a maximum dose of 80 Gy.


Patients were evaluated for up to 16 years after GKS; 107 patients had > 5 years of follow-up. Eighty-nine percent of patients achieved initial pain relief that was adequate or better, with or without medications (Barrow Neurological Institute [BNI] Scores I–IIIb). Significant pain relief (BNI Scores I–IIIa) was achieved in 73% at 1 year, 65% at 2 years, and 41% at 5 years. Including Score IIIb (pain adequately controlled with medication), a BNI score of I–IIIb was found in 80% at 1 year, 71% at 3 years, 46% at 5 years, and 30% at 10 years. A faster initial pain response including adequate and some pain relief was seen in patients with trigeminal neuralgia without additional symptoms, patients without prior surgery, and patients with a pain duration of ≤ 3 years. One hundred ninety-three (43%) of 450 patients who achieved initial pain relief reported some recurrent pain 3–144 months after initial relief (median 50 months). Factors associated with earlier pain recurrence that failed to maintain adequate or some pain relief were trigeminal neuralgia with additional symptoms and ≥ 3 prior failed surgical procedures. Fifty-three patients (10.5%) developed new or increased subjective facial paresthesias or numbness and 1 developed deafferentation pain; these symptoms resolved in 17 patients. Those who developed sensory loss had better long-term pain control (78% at 5 years).


Gamma Knife surgery proved to be safe and effective in the treatment of medically refractory trigeminal neuralgia and is of value for initial or recurrent pain management. Despite the goal of minimizing sensory loss with this procedure, some sensory loss may improve long-term outcomes. Pain relapse is amenable to additional GKS or another procedure.

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Satoshi Maesawa, Camille Salame, John C. Flickinger, Stephen Pirris, Douglas Kondziolka, and L. Dade Lunsford

Object. Stereotactic radiosurgery is an increasingly used and the least invasive surgical option for patients with trigeminal neuralgia. In this study, the authors investigate the clinical outcomes in patients treated with this procedure.

Methods. Independently acquired data from 220 patients with idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia who underwent gamma knife radiosurgery were reviewed. The median age was 70 years (range 26–92 years). Most patients had typical features of trigeminal neuralgia, although 16 (7.3%) described additional atypical features. One hundred thirty-five patients (61.4%) had previously undergone surgery and 80 (36.4%) had some degree of sensory disturbance related to the earlier surgery.

Patients were followed for a maximum of 6.5 years (median 2 years). Complete or partial relief was achieved in 85.6% of patients at 1 year. Complete pain relief was achieved in 64.9% of patients at 6 months, 70.3% at 1 year, and 75.4% at 33 months. Patients with an atypical pain component had a lower rate of pain relief (p = 0.025). Because of recurrences, only 55.8% of patients had complete or partial pain relief at 5 years. The absence of preoperative sensory disturbance (p = 0.02) or previous surgery (p = 0.01) correlated with an increased proportion of patients who experienced complete or partial pain relief over time. Thirty patients (13.6%) reported pain recurrence 2 to 58 months after initial relief (median 15.4 months). Only 17 patients (10.2% at 2 years) developed new or increased subjective facial paresthesia or numbness, including one who developed deafferentation pain.

Conclusions. Radiosurgery for idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia was safe and effective, and it provided benefit to a patient population with a high frequency of prior surgical intervention.

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Douglas Kondziolka, L. Dade Lunsford, John C. Flickinger, Ronald F. Young, Sandra Vermeulen, Christopher M. Duma, Deane B. Jacques, Robert W. Rand, Jean Regis, Jean-Claude Peragut, Luis Manera, Mel H. Epstein, and Christer Lindquist

✓ 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.