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Corbin A. Helis, Emory McTyre, Michael T. Munley, J. Daniel Bourland, John T. Lucas Jr., Christina K. Cramer, Stephen B. Tatter, Adrian W. Laxton and Michael D. Chan

OBJECTIVE

A small subset of patients with trigeminal neuralgia (TN) will experience bilateral symptoms. Treatment in these patients is controversial because the population is heterogeneous and patients may have nonvascular etiologies of their pain. This study reports treatment outcomes in the largest cohort of patients with bilateral TN who have undergone Gamma Knife radiosurgery (GKRS) to date.

METHODS

A retrospective chart review identified 51 individual nerves in 34 patients with bilateral TN who were treated with GKRS at the authors’ institution between 2001 and 2015, with 12 nerves in 11 patients undergoing repeat GKRS for recurrent or persistent symptoms. Long-term follow-up was obtained by telephone interview. Pain outcomes were measured using the Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) pain scale, with BNI IIIb or better considered a successful treatment.

RESULTS

There was sufficient follow-up to determine treatment outcomes for 48 individual nerves in 33 patients. Of these nerves, 42 (88%) achieved at least BNI IIIb pain relief. The median duration of pain relief was 1.9 years, and 1-, 3-, and 5-year pain relief rates were 64%, 44%, and 44%, respectively. No patients experienced bothersome facial numbness, and 1 case of anesthesia dolorosa and 2 cases of corneal dryness were reported. Patients with a history of definite or possible multiple sclerosis were significantly more likely to experience BNI IV–V relapse. There was no statistically significant difference in treatment outcomes between patients in this series versus a large cohort of patients with unilateral TN treated at the authors’ institution. There was sufficient follow-up to determine treatment outcomes for 11 individual nerves in 10 patients treated with repeat GKRS. Ten nerves (91%) improved to at least BNI IIIb after treatment. The median duration of pain relief was 2.8 years, with 1-, 3-, and 5-year rates of pain relief of 79%, 53%, and 53%, respectively. There was no statistically significant difference in outcomes between initial and repeat GKRS. One case of bothersome facial numbness and 1 case of corneal dryness were reported, with no patients developing anesthesia dolorosa with retreatment.

CONCLUSIONS

GKRS is a safe, well-tolerated treatment for patients with medically refractory bilateral TN. Efficacy of treatment appears similar to that in patients with unilateral TN. GKRS can be safely repeated in this population if necessary.

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Corbin A. Helis, Ryan T. Hughes, Michael T. Munley, J. Daniel Bourland, Travis Jacobson, John T. Lucas Jr., Christina K. Cramer, Stephen B. Tatter, Adrian W. Laxton and Michael D. Chan

OBJECTIVE

Gamma Knife radiosurgery (GKRS) is a commonly used procedure for medically refractory trigeminal neuralgia (TN), with repeat GKRS routinely done in cases of pain relapse. The results of a third GKRS in cases of further pain relapse have not been well described. In this study, the authors report the largest series of patients treated with a third GKRS for TN to date.

METHODS

Retrospective review of institutional electronic medical records and a GKRS database was performed to identify patients who had been treated with a third GKRS at the authors’ institution in the period from 2010 to 2018. Telephone interviews were used to collect long-term follow-up data. Pain outcomes were measured using the Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) pain intensity scale, with a score ≤ IIIb indicating successful treatment.

RESULTS

Twenty-two nerves in 21 patients had sufficient follow-up to determine BNI pain score outcomes. Eighteen of 22 cases had a successful third GKRS, with a median durability of pain relief of 3.88 years. There was no significant difference in the durability of pain relief after a third GKRS compared with those of institutional historical controls of prior series of first and second GKRS procedures. Ten cases had new or worsening facial numbness, with 1 case being bothersome. Four cases of toxicity other than facial numbness were reported, including 1 case of corneal abrasions and possible neurotrophic keratopathy. No cases of anesthesia dolorosa were reported. No factors predicting treatment success or the durability of pain relief were identified. Nonnumbness toxicity was more common in those with a proximally placed shot at the third GKRS.

CONCLUSIONS

A third GKRS is an effective treatment option for TN patients who have pain relapse after repeat GKRS. Pain outcomes of a third GKRS are similar to those following a first or second GKRS. Toxicity is tolerable in patients with a distally placed shot at the third GKRS.