The object of this study was to investigate the immediate and long-term follow-up results of glossopharyngeal nerve rhizotomy (GPNR) with or without partial vagus nerve rhizotomy (VNR) for treating glossopharyngeal neuralgia (GPN).
A retrospective review of the case notes of patients who had undergone surgery for GPN in the authors’ department between 2008 and 2013 was performed to investigate baseline characteristics and immediate outcomes during the hospitalization. For the long-term results, a telephone survey was performed, and information on pain recurrence and permanent complications was collected. Pain relief meant no pain or medication, any pain persisting after surgery was considered to be treatment failure, and any pain returning during the follow-up period was considered to be pain recurrence. For comparative study, the patients were divided into 2 cohorts, that is, patients treated with GPNR alone and those treated with GPNR+VNR.
One hundred three procedures, consisting of GPNR alone in 38 cases and GPNR+VNR in 65 cases, were performed in 103 consecutive patients with GPN. Seventy-nine of the 103 patients could be contacted for the follow-up study, with a mean follow-up duration of 2.73 years (range 1 month–5.75 years). While there were similar results (GPNR vs GPNR+VNR) in immediate pain relief rates (94.7% vs 93.8%), immediate complication rates (7.9% vs 4.6%), and long-term pain relief rates (92.3% vs 94.3%) between the 2 cohorts, a great difference was seen in long-term complications (3.8% vs 35.8%). The long-term complication rate for the combined GPNR+VNR cohort was 9.4 times higher than that in the GPNR cohort.
There was no operative or perioperative mortality. Immediate complications occurred in 6 cases, consisting of poor wound healing in 3 cases, and CSF leakage, hoarseness, and dystaxia in 1 case each. Permanent complications occurred in 20 patients (25.3%) and included cough while drinking in 10 patients, pharyngeal discomfort in 8 patients, and hoarseness and dysphagia in 1 case each.
In general, this study indicates that GPNR alone or in combination with VNR is a safe, simple, and effective treatment option for GPN. It may be especially valuable for patients who are not suitable for the microvascular decompression (MVD) procedure and for surgeons who have little experience with MVD. Of note, this study renews the significance of GPNR alone, which, the authors believe, is at least valuable for a subgroup of GPN patients, with significantly fewer long-term complications than those for rhizotomy for both glossopharyngeal nerve and rootlets of the vagus nerve.