Cingulotomy has been reported in the literature as a potential treatment option for refractory cancer-related pain. However, the optimal candidates for this intervention and the outcomes are not well characterized. The goal of this study was to review the available literature on cingulotomy, specifically for cancer-related pain.
A search of PubMed, PubMed Central, the Cochrane Library, and MEDLINE was performed to identify all articles discussing cingulotomy for cancer pain. The text strings “cingul*” and “pain” were separated by the Boolean AND operator, and used to perform the query on PubMed. Only studies in which a stereotactic technique was used, as opposed to an open technique, and specifically detailing outcomes for cancer pain were included. For centers with multiple publications, care was taken not to double-count individual patients.
The literature review revealed only 8 unique studies describing outcomes of stereotactic cingulotomy for cancer pain. Between 32% and 83% of patients had meaningful pain relief. The location of the lesion was variable, ranging between 1 cm and 4 cm posterior to the tip of the anterior horn. Although serious adverse events are rare, a decline in focused attention can been seen in the early postoperative period, along with apathy and decreased activity.
For patients with cancer pain with diffuse pain syndromes, head and neck malignancies, and significant emotional distress, cingulotomy may be a safe treatment option with minimal cognitive changes.