Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) has been shown to be effective in treating trigeminal neuralgia (TN). Existing studies have demonstrated success rates of 69.1–85% with median follow-up intervals of 19–60 months. However, series with uniform long-term follow-up data for all patients have been lacking. In the present study the authors examined outcomes in a series of patients with TN who underwent a single GKS treatment followed by a minimum follow-up of 36 months. They used a clinical scale that simplifies the reporting of outcome data for patients with TN.
Fifty-three consecutive patients with typical, intractable TN received a median maximum radiation dose of 80 Gy applied with a single 4-mm isocenter to the affected trigeminal nerve. Follow-up data were obtained by clinical examination and questionnaire. Outcome results were categorized into the following classes (in order of decreasing success): Class 1A, complete pain relief without medications; 1B, complete pain relief with either a decrease or no change in medications; 1C, ≥ 50% pain relief without medications; 1D, ≥ 50% pain relief with either a decrease or no change in medications; and Class 2, < 50% pain relief and/or increase in medications. Patients with Class 1A–1D outcome (equivalent to Barrow Neurological Institute Grades I–IIIb) were considered to have a good treatment outcome, whereas in patients with Class 2 outcome (equivalent to Barrow Neurological Institute Grades IV and V) treatment was considered to have failed.
A good treatment outcome from initial GKS was achieved in 31 (58.5%) patients for whom the mean follow-up period was 48 months (range 36–66 months). Outcomes at last follow-up were reflected by class status: Class 1A, 32.1% of patients; 1B, 1.9%; 1C, 3.8%; 1D, 20.8%; and Class 2, 41.5%. Statistical analysis showed no difference in outcomes between patients previously treated with microvascular decompression or rhizotomy compared with patients with no previous surgical treatments. Thirty-six percent of patients reported some degree of posttreatment facial numbness. Anesthesia dolorosa did not develop in any patient.
Despite a time-dependent deterioration in the success rate of GKS for medically intractable TN, the authors' study showed that > 50% of patients can be expected to have a good outcome based on their scoring system, with ~ 33% having an ideal outcome (pain free with no need for medications). Long-term data, as those presented here, are important when counseling patients on their treatment options.