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Andrea Franzini, Luca Attuati, Ismail Zaed, Shayan Moosa, Antonella Stravato, Pierina Navarria and Piero Picozzi

OBJECTIVE

The goal of this study was to assess the safety and efficacy of stereotactic central lateral thalamotomy with Gamma Knife radiosurgery in patients with neuropathic pain.

METHODS

Clinical and radiosurgical data were prospectively collected and analyzed in patients with neuropathic pain who underwent Gamma Knife central lateral thalamotomy. The safety and efficacy of the lesioning procedure were evaluated by neurological examination and standardized scales for pain intensity and health-related quality of life. Visual analog scale (VAS) for pain, McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ), EuroQol–5 dimensions (EQ-5D), and the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey, version 2 (SF-36v2) were measured during baseline and postoperative follow-up evaluations at 3, 6, 12, 24, and 36 months.

RESULTS

Eight patients with neuropathic pain underwent Gamma Knife central lateral thalamotomy. Four patients suffered from trigeminal deafferentation pain, 2 from brachial plexus injury, 1 from central poststroke facial neuropathic pain, and 1 from postherpetic neuralgia. No lesioning-related adverse effect was recorded during the follow-up periods. All patients had pain reduction following thalamotomy. The mean follow-up time was 24 months. At the last follow-up visits, 5 patients reported ≥ 50% VAS pain reduction. The overall mean VAS pain score was 9.4 (range 8–10) before radiosurgery. After 1 year, the mean VAS pain score decreased significantly, from 9.4 (range 8–10) to 5.5 (mean −41.33%, p = 0.01). MPQ scores significantly decreased (mean −22.18%, p = 0.014). Statistically significant improvements of the SF-36v2 quality of life survey (mean +48.16%, p = 0.012) and EQ-5D (+45.16%, p = 0.012) were observed. At 2 years after radiosurgery, the VAS pain score remained significantly reduced to a mean value of 5.5 (p = 0.027). Statistically significant improvements were also observed for the MPQ (mean −16.05%, p = 0.034); the EQ-5D (mean +35.48%, p = 0.028); and the SF-36v2 (mean +35.84%, p = 0.043). At the last follow-up visits, pain had recurred in 2 patients, who were suffering from central poststroke neuropathic pain and brachial plexus injury, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

Safe, nonpharmacological therapies are imperative for the management of refectory chronic pain conditions. The present series demonstrates that Gamma Knife central lateral thalamotomy is safe and potentially effective in the long term for relieving chronic neuropathic pain refractory to pharmacotherapy and for restoring quality of life.