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Contemporary concepts of pain surgery

JNSPG 75th Anniversary Invited Review Article

Kim J. Burchiel and Ahmed M. Raslan

Pain surgery is one of the historic foundations of neurological surgery. The authors present a review of contemporary concepts in surgical pain management, with reference to past successes and failures, what has been learned as a subspecialty over the past 50 years, as well as a vision for current and future practice. This subspecialty confronts problems of cancer pain, nociceptive pain, and neuropathic pain. For noncancer pain, ablative procedures such as dorsal root entry zone lesions and rhizolysis for trigeminal neuralgia (TN) should continue to be practiced. Other procedures, such as medial thalamotomy, have not been proven effective and require continued study. Dorsal rhizotomy, dorsal root ganglionectomy, and neurotomy should probably be abandoned. For cancer pain, cordotomy is an important and underutilized method for pain control. Intrathecal opiate administration via an implantable system remains an important option for cancer pain management. While there are encouraging results in small case series, cingulotomy, hypophysectomy, and mesencephalotomy deserve further detailed analysis. Electrical neuromodulation is a rapidly changing discipline, and new methods such as high-frequency spinal cord stimulation (SCS), burst SCS, and dorsal root ganglion stimulation may or may not prove to be more effective than conventional SCS. Despite a history of failure, deep brain stimulation for pain may yet prove to be an effective therapy for specific pain conditions. Peripheral nerve stimulation for conditions such as occipital neuralgia and trigeminal neuropathic pain remains an option, although the quality of outcomes data is a challenge to these applications. Based on the evidence, motor cortex stimulation should be abandoned. TN is a mainstay of the surgical treatment of pain, particularly as new evidence and insights into TN emerge. Pain surgery will continue to build on this heritage, and restorative procedures will likely find a role in the armamentarium. The challenge for the future will be to acquire higher-level evidence to support the practice of surgical pain management.

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Jorge L. Eller, Ahmed M. Raslan and Kim J. Burchiel

Based on specific, objective, and reproducible criteria, a classification scheme for trigeminal neuralgia (TN) and related facial pain syndromes is proposed. Such a classification scheme is based on information provided in the patient's history and incorporates seven diagnostic criteria, as follows. 1) and 2) Trigeminal neuralgia Types 1 and 2 (TN1 and TN2) refer to idiopathic, spontaneous facial pain that is either predominantly episodic (as in TN1) or constant (as in TN2) in nature. 3) Trigeminal neuropathic pain results from unintentional injury to the trigeminal nerve from trauma or surgery. 4) Trigeminal deafferentation pain results from intentional injury to the nerve by peripheral nerve ablation, gangliolysis, or rhizotomy in an attempt to treat either TN or other related facial pain. 5) Symptomatic TN results from multiple sclerosis. 6) Postherpetic TN follows a cutaneous herpes zoster outbreak in the trigeminal distribution. 7) The category of atypical facial pain is reserved for facial pain secondary to a somatoform pain disorder and requires psychological testing for diagnostic confirmation. The purpose of a classification scheme like this is to advocate a more rigorous, standardized natural history and outcome studies for TN and related facial pain syndromes.

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Eric M. Thompson, Kim J. Burchiel and Ahmed M. Raslan

For confirming the correct location of the radiofrequency electrode before creation of a lesion, percutaneous CT-guided trigeminal tractotomy–nucleotomy is most commonly performed with the patient prone and awake. However, for patients whose facial pain and hypersensitivity are so severe that the patients are unable to rest their face on a support (as required with prone positioning), awake CT-guided tractotomy-nucleotomy might not be feasible. The authors describe 2 such patients, for whom percutaneous intraoperative CT-guided tractotomy-nucleotomy under general anesthesia was successful. One patient was a 79-year-old man with profound left facial postherpetic neuralgia, who was unable to tolerate awake CT-guided tractotomy-nucleotomy, and the other was a 45-year-old woman with intractable hemicranial pain that developed after a right frontal lesionectomy for epilepsy. Each patient underwent a percutaneous intraoperative CT-guided tractotomy-nucleotomy under general anesthesia. No complications occurred, and each patient reported excellent pain relief for up to 6 and 3 months after surgery, respectively. Percutaneous intraoperative CT-guided tractotomy-nucleotomy performed on anesthetized patients is effective for facial postherpetic neuralgia and postoperative hemicranial neuralgia.

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Katherine G. Holste, Frances A. Hardaway, Ahmed M. Raslan and Kim J. Burchiel

OBJECTIVE

Nervus intermedius neuralgia (NIN) or geniculate neuralgia is a rare facial pain condition consisting of sharp, lancinating pain deep in the ear and can occur alongside trigeminal neuralgia (TN). Studies on the clinical presentation, intraoperative findings, and ultimately postoperative outcomes are extremely limited. The aim of this study was to examine the clinical presentation and surgical findings, and determine pain-free survival after sectioning of the nervus intermedius (NI).

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective chart review and survey of patients who were diagnosed with NIN at one institution and who underwent neurosurgical interventions. Pain-free survival was determined through chart review and phone interviews using a modified facial pain and quality of life questionnaire and represented as Kaplan-Meier curves.

RESULTS

The authors found 15 patients with NIN who underwent microsurgical intervention performed by two surgeons from 2002 to 2016 at a single institution. Fourteen of these patients underwent sectioning of the NI, and 8 of 14 had concomitant TN. Five patients had visible neurovascular compression (NVC) of the NI by the anterior inferior cerebellar artery in most cases where NVC was found. The most common postoperative complaints were dizziness and vertigo, diplopia, ear fullness, tinnitus, and temporary facial nerve palsy. Thirteen of the 14 patients reportedly experienced pain relief immediately after surgery. The mean length of follow-up was 6.41 years (range 8 months to 14.5 years). Overall recurrence of any pain was 42% (6 of 14), and 4 patients (isolated NIN that received NI sectioning alone) reported their pain was the same or worse than before surgery at longest follow-up. The median pain-free survival was 4.82 years ± 14.85 months. The median pain-controlled survival was 6.22 years ± 15.78 months.

CONCLUSIONS

In this retrospective review, sectioning of the NI produced no major complications, such as permanent facial weakness or deafness, and was effective for patients when performed in addition to other procedures. After sectioning of the NI, patients experienced 4.8 years pain free and experienced 6.2 years of less pain than before surgery. Alone, sectioning of the NI was not effective. The pathophysiology of NIN is not entirely understood. It appears that neurovascular compression plays only a minor role in the syndrome and there is a high degree of overlap with TN.

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Kim J. Burchiel, Shirley McCartney, Albert Lee and Ahmed M. Raslan

Object

In this prospective study the authors' objective was to evaluate the accuracy of deep brain stimulation (DBS) electrode placement using image guidance for direct anatomical targeting with intraoperative CT.

Methods

Preoperative 3-T MR images were merged with intraoperative CT images for planning. Electrode targets were anatomical, based on the MR images. A skull-mounted NexFrame system was used for electrode placement, and all procedures were performed under general anesthesia. After electrode placement, intraoperative CT images were merged with trajectory planning images to calculate accuracy. Accuracy was assessed by both vector error and deviation off the planned trajectory.

Results

Sixty patients (33 with Parkinson disease, 26 with essential tremor, and 1 with dystonia) underwent the procedure. Patient's mean age was 64 ± 9.5 years. Over an 18-month period, 119 electrodes were placed (all bilateral, except one). Electrode implant locations were the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM), globus pallidus internus (GPI), and subthalamic nucleus (STN) in 25, 23, and 12 patients, respectively. Target accuracy measurements were as follows: mean vector error 1.59 ± 1.11 mm and mean deviation off trajectory 1.24 ± 0.87 mm. There was no statistically significant difference between the accuracy of left and right brain electrodes. There was a statistically significant (negative) correlation between the distance of the closest approach of the electrode trajectory to the ventricular wall of the lateral ventricle and vector error (r2 = −0.339, p < 0.05, n = 76), and the deviation from the planned trajectory (r2 = −0.325, p < 0.05, n = 77). Furthermore, when the distance from the electrode trajectory and the ventricular wall was < 4 mm, the correlation of the ventricular distance to the deviation from the planned trajectory was stronger (r2 = −0.419, p = 0.05, n = 19). Electrodes placed in the GPI were significantly more accurate than those placed in the VIM (p < 0.05). Only 1 of 119 electrodes required intraoperative replacement due to a vector error > 3 mm. In this series there was one infection and no intraparenchymal hemorrhages.

Conclusions

Placement of DBS electrodes using an intraoperative CT scanner and the NexFrame achieves an accuracy that is at least comparable to other methods.

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Ahmed M. Raslan and Kim J. Burchiel

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Ahmed M. Raslan, Justin S. Cetas, Shirley McCartney and Kim J. Burchiel

Object

Historically, destructive procedures for cancer pain were the main line of treatment therapy. However, the use of high-dose opioids has essentially replaced such procedures. Recognition of the limits of medical therapy to treat cancer pain effectively is growing, while conversely, in regions with limited access to pain medications, the importance of destructive surgical techniques is increasing. A critical evaluation of the evidence for destructive techniques is warranted, and the authors review current evidence underlying these procedures.

Methods

A US National Library of Medicine PubMed search for “ablation,” “DREZ,” “dorsal root entry zone,” “cingulotomy,” “cordotomy,” “ganglionectomy,” “mesencephalotomy,” “myelotomy,” “neurotomy,” “neurectomy,” “rhizotomy,” “sympathectomy,” “thalamotomy,” “tractotomy,” and “pain” was undertaken. The search was then limited to human studies, English-language literature, cancer pain, and reports with more than 1 patient.

Results

One hundred twenty papers were identified and reviewed based on the selection criteria described. According to the Canadian and US task forces, classification of clinical research literature only “sympathectomy” was supported by Class I or II studies, with 2 Class I papers and 1 Class II paper identified for cancer pain. All other procedures were supported by Class III studies of variable quality. Cordotomy in particular was the most extensively studied and reviewed procedure. Given the large number of patients studied, consistent results, multiplicity of reports and, even though evidence quality for individual studies was relatively low, cumulative evidence suggests that cordotomy may play an important role in the treatment of cancer pain.

Conclusions

Destructive procedures for cancer pain may play more than a historic role in the management of cancer pain. Cumulative evidence from even the poorest quality studies suggests that some procedures, such as cordotomy, should be included in the armamentarium available to the neurosurgeon today. To renew appropriate interest in these procedures, evidence and studies that meets today's evidence-based research criteria are warranted.

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Roberto C. Heros

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Zoe E. Teton, Katherine G. Holste, Fran A. Hardaway, Kim J. Burchiel and Ahmed M. Raslan

OBJECTIVE

Glossopharyngeal neuralgia (GN) is a rare pain condition in which patients experience paroxysmal, lancinating throat pain. Multiple surgical approaches have been used to treat this condition, including microvascular decompression (MVD), and sectioning of cranial nerve (CN) IX and the upper rootlets of CN X, or a combination of the two. The aim of this study was to examine the long-term quality of life and pain-free survival after MVD and sectioning of the CN X/IX complex.

METHODS

A combined retrospective chart review and a quality-of-life telephone survey were performed to collect demographic and long-term outcome data. Quality of life was assessed by means of a questionnaire based on a combination of the Barrow Neurological Institute pain intensity scoring criteria and the Brief Pain Inventory–Facial. Kaplan-Meier analysis was performed to determine pain-free survival.

RESULTS

Of 18 patients with GN, 17 underwent sectioning of the CN IX/X complex alone or sectioning and MVD depending on the presence of a compressing vessel. Eleven of 17 patients had compression of CN IX/X by the posterior inferior cerebellar artery, 1 had compression by a vertebral artery, and 5 had no compression. One patient (6%) experienced no immediate pain relief. Fifteen (88%) of 17 patients were pain free at the last follow-up (mean 9.33 years, range 5.16–13 years). One patient (6%) experienced throat pain relapse at 3 months. The median pain-free survival was 7.5 years ± 10.6 months. Nine of 18 patients were contacted by telephone. Of the 17 patients who underwent sectioning of the CN IX/X complex, 13 (77%) patients had short-term complaints: dysphagia (n = 4), hoarseness (n = 4), ipsilateral hearing loss (n = 4), ipsilateral taste loss (n = 2), and dizziness (n = 2) at 2 weeks. Nine patients had persistent side effects at latest follow-up. Eight of 9 telephone respondents reported that they would have the surgery over again.

CONCLUSIONS

Sectioning of the CN IX/X complex with or without MVD of the glossopharyngeal nerve is a safe and effective surgical therapy for GN with initial pain freedom in 94% of patients and an excellent long-term pain relief (mean 7.5 years).

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Fran A. Hardaway, Hanna C. Gustafsson, Katherine Holste, Kim J. Burchiel and Ahmed M. Raslan

OBJECTIVE

Pain relief following microvascular decompression (MVD) for trigeminal neuralgia (TN) may be related to pain type, degree of neurovascular conflict, arterial compression, and location of compression. The objective of this study was to construct a predictive pain-free scoring system based on clinical and radiographic factors that can be used to preoperatively prognosticate long-term outcomes for TN patients following surgical intervention (MVD or internal neurolysis [IN]). It was hypothesized that contributing factors would include pain type, presence of an artery or vein, neurovascular conflict severity, and compression location (root entry zone).

METHODS

At the authors’ institution 275 patients with type 1 or type 2 TN (TN1 or TN2) underwent MVD or IN following preoperative high-resolution brain MRI studies. Outcome data were obtained retrospectively by chart review and/or phone follow-up. Characteristics of neurovascular conflict were obtained from preoperative MRI studies. Factors that resulted in a probability value of < 0.05 on univariate logistic regression analyses were entered into a multivariate Cox regression analysis in a backward stepwise fashion. For the multivariate analysis, significance at the 0.15 level was used. A prognostic system was then devised with 4 possible scores (0, 1, 2, or 3) and pain-free survival analyses conducted.

RESULTS

Univariate predictors of pain-free survival were pain type (p = 0.013), presence of any vessel (p = 0.042), and neurovascular compression severity (p = 0.038). Scores of 0, 1, 2, and 3 were found to be significantly different in regard to pain-free survival (log rank, p = 0.005). At 5 and 10 years there were 36%, 43%, 61%, and 69%, and 36%, 43%, 56%, and 67% pain-free survival rates in groups 0, 1, 2, and 3, respectively. While TN2 patients had worse outcomes regardless of score, a subgroup analysis of TN1 patients with higher neurovascular conflict (score of 3) had significantly better outcomes than TN1 patients without severe neurovascular conflict (score of 1) (log rank, p = 0.005). Regardless of pain type, those patients with severe neurovascular conflict were more likely to have arterial compression (99%) compared to those with low neurovascular conflict (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Pain-free survival was predicted by a scoring system based on preoperative clinical and radiographic findings. Higher scores predicted significantly better pain relief than lower scores. TN1 patients with severe neurovascular conflict had the best long-term pain-free outcome.