The goal of this study was to evaluate the outcomes of Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) when used for patients with intractable idiopathic glossopharyngeal neuralgia.
Six participating centers of the International Gamma Knife Research Foundation identified 22 patients who underwent SRS for intractable glossopharyngeal neuralgia between 1998 and 2015. The median patient age was 60 years (range 34–83 years). The median duration of symptoms before SRS was 46 months (range 1–240 months). Three patients had unsuccessful prior surgical procedures, including microvascular decompression (MVD) (n = 2) and balloon compression (n = 1). The radiosurgical target was the glossopharyngeal meatus. The median maximum dose was 80 Gy.
The median follow-up was 45 months after SRS (range 6–120 months). Twelve patients (55%) had < 4 years of follow-up. Thirteen patients (59%) had initial complete pain relief at a median of 12 days after SRS (range 1–60 days). Three patients (14%) had partial pain relief at a median of 70 days after SRS (range 60–90 days). Six patients (27%) had no pain relief. Among 16 patients with initial pain relief, 5 maintained complete pain relief without medication (Barrow Neurological Institute [BNI] pain intensity score Grade I), 1 maintained occasional pain relief without medication (BNI Grade II), 3 maintained complete pain relief with medication (BNI Grade IIIb), and 7 patients had pain recurrence at a median of 20 months after SRS (range 6–120 months). The rates of maintenance of adequate pain relief (BNI Grades I–IIIb) were 63% at 1 year, 49% at 2 years, 38% at 3 years, 38% at 5 years, and 28% at 7 years. When 7 patients without pain recurrence within 4 years of follow-up were excluded, the rates of maintenance of adequate pain relief were 38% at 5 years and 28% at 7 years. Ten patients required additional procedures (MVD, n = 4; repeat SRS, n = 5; glossopharyngeal nerve block, n = 1). Four of 5 patients who underwent repeat SRS maintained pain relief (BNI Grade I, n = 3; and BNI Grade IIIb, n = 1). No adverse effects of radiation were observed after a single SRS. Two patients developed hyperesthesia in the palatoglossal arch 5 and 8 months after repeat SRS, respectively.
Stereotactic radiosurgery for intractable, medically refractory glossopharyngeal neuralgia provided lasting pain reduction in 55% of patients after 1 or 2 SRS procedures. Patients who had a poor response or pain recurrence may require additional procedures such as repeat SRS, MVD, nerve blocks, or nerve section. No patient developed changes in vocal cord function or swallowing disorders after SRS in this study.