Microvascular decompression (MVD) and stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) are common surgical treatments for trigeminal neuralgia (TN). Many patients who receive SRS have pain recurrence; the ideal second intervention is unknown. The authors directly compared pain outcomes after MVD and repeat SRS in a population of patients in whom SRS failed as their first-line procedure for TN, and they identified predictors of pain control.
The authors reviewed a prospectively collected database of patients undergoing surgery for TN between 1997 and 2014 at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Standardized data collection focused on preoperative clinical characteristics, surgical characteristics, and postoperative outcomes. Patients with typical type 1, idiopathic TN with ≥ 1 year of follow-up were included.
In total, 168 patients underwent SRS as their first procedure. Of these patients, 90 had residual or recurrent pain. Thirty of these patients underwent a second procedure at UCSF and had ≥ 1 year of follow-up; 15 underwent first-time MVD and 15 underwent repeat SRS. Patients undergoing MVD were younger than those receiving repeat SRS and were more likely to receive ≥ 80 Gy during the initial SRS. The average follow-up was 44.9 ± 33.6 months for MVD and 48.3 ± 45.3 months for SRS. All patients achieved complete pain freedom without medication at some point during their follow-up. At last follow-up, 80% of MVD-treated patients and 33.3% of SRS-treated patients had a favorable outcome, defined as Barrow Neurological Institute Pain Intensity scores of I–IIIa (p < 0.05). Percentages of patients with favorable outcome at 1 and 5 years were 86% and 75% for the MVD cohort and 73% and 27% for the SRS cohort, respectively (p < 0.05). Multivariate Cox proportional hazards analysis demonstrated that performing MVD was statistically significantly associated with favorable outcome (HR 0.12, 95% CI 0.02–0.60, p < 0.01). There were no statistically significant predictors of favorable outcome in the MVD cohort; however, the presence of sensory changes after repeat SRS was associated with pain relief (p < 0.01).
Patients who received MVD after failed SRS had a longer duration of favorable outcome compared to those who received repeat SRS; however, both modalities are safe and effective. The presence of post-SRS sensory changes was predictive of a favorable pain outcome in the SRS cohort.