While cases of trigeminal neuralgia induced by a brainstem infarct have been reported, the neurosurgical literature lacks clear treatment recommendations in this subpopulation.
The authors present the first case report of infarct-related trigeminal neuralgia treated with pontine descending tractotomy that resulted in durable pain relief after multiple failed surgical interventions, including previous microvascular decompressions and stereotactic radiosurgery. A neuronavigated pontine descending tractotomy of the spinal trigeminal tract was performed and resulted in successful pain relief for a 50-month follow-up period.
While many cases of ischemic brainstem lesions are caused by acute stroke, the authors assert that cerebral small vessel disease also plays a role in certain cases and that the relationship between these chronic ischemic brainstem lesions and trigeminal neuralgia is more likely to be overlooked. Furthermore, neurovascular compression may obscure the causative mechanism of infarct-related trigeminal neuralgia, leading to unsuccessful decompressive surgeries in cases in which neurovascular compression may be noncontributory to pain symptomatology. Pontine descending tractotomy may be beneficial in select patients and can be performed either alone or concurrently with microvascular decompression in cases in which the interplay between ischemic lesion and neurovascular compression in the pathophysiology of disease is not clear.