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Vittoria Nazzi, Angelo Franzini, Giuseppe Messina and Giovanni Broggi

✓In the past few years, several different minimally invasive surgical techniques have been proposed to decompress the median nerve at the wrist. Use of these techniques has become widespread due to fewer local complications, faster functional recovery, and reduced surgical time. In this paper the authors compare 3 different minimally invasive surgical techniques used at their institution in the past 13 years. Between January 1994 and January 2007, 891 patients underwent 1272 surgeries at the authors' institution for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), for which a minimally invasive technique was used. In 473 cases (Group A), the transillumination technique with a single wrist incision and a “carpalotome” (a modified Paine retinaculotome) was used; in 216 cases (Group B), transillumination was abandoned and a single linear wrist incision for access with the carpalotome was performed; and in 583 cases (Group C), the techniques were further modified by making a second incision in the palm using the carpalotome. All 3 groups of patients were homogeneous for age, sex, and duration of the symptomatology. In 90% of the patients in Group A, in 88% of those in Group B, and 99.8% of patients in Group C, complete remission of symptoms was obtained. Due to persistence of symptoms, 44 patients in Group A, 24 in Group B, and only 1 in Group C underwent a repeated operation with the open technique. The only surgical complication requiring repeated operation of the 1272 operations was a lesion of the primitive median artery (1 patient in Group C).

The technique of median nerve decompression at the wrist that was used for patients in Group C represents a valid alternative for treatment of CTS.

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Angelo Franzini, Giuseppe Messina, Roberto Cordella, Carlo Marras and Giovanni Broggi

Object

The aim of this study was to review the indications for and results of deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the posterior hypothalamus (pHyp) in the treatment of drug-refractory and severe painful syndromes of the face, disruptive and aggressive behavior associated with epilepsy, and below-average intelligence. The preoperative clinical picture, functional imaging studies, and overall clinical results in the literature are discussed.

Methods

All patients underwent stereotactic implantation of deep-brain electrodes within the pHyp. Data from several authors have been collected and reported for each clinical entity, as have clinical results, adverse events, and neurophysiological characteristics of the pHyp.

Results

The percentage of patients with chronic cluster headache who responded to DBS was 50% in the overall reported series. The response rate was 100% for short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing and for chronic paroxysmal hemicrania, although only 2 patients and 1 patient, respectively, have been described as having these conditions.

None of the 4 patients suffering from refractory neuropathic trigeminal pain benefited from the procedure (0% response rate), whereas all 5 patients (100%) affected with refractory trigeminal neuralgia (TN) due to multiple sclerosis (MS) and undergoing pHyp DBS experienced a significant decrease in pain attacks within the first branch of cranial nerve V. Six (75%) of 8 patients presenting with aggressive behavior and mental retardation benefited from pHyp stimulation; 6 patients were part of the authors' series and 2 were reported in the literature.

Conclusions

In carefully selected patients, DBS of the pHyp can be considered an effective procedure for the treatment of refractory trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias, aggressive behavior, and MS-related TN in the first trigeminal branch. Only larger and prospective studies along with multidisciplinary approaches (including, by necessity, neuroimaging studies) can lead us to better patient selection that would reduce the rate of nonresponders.

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Vittoria Nazzi, Giuseppe Messina, Ivano Dones, Paolo Ferroli and Giovanni Broggi

✓The authors report on the case of a 32-year-old woman with an intramuscular arteriovenous hemangioma (AVH) of the left forearm with burning pain and paresthesias diffused to the radial nerve–related territories. The patient underwent coil embolization of the AVH and surgical removal of the remnant and regrown AVH. This case demonstrates the safety and efficacy of surgery when interventional radiology fails to achieve complete occlusion. En bloc removal of the lesion was performed through a left elbow cleft incision, and intraoperative electrophysiological monitoring and angiography with indocyanine green (ICG) were performed. The pathological diagnosis was intramuscular AVH. Postoperative follow-up examinations demonstrated the permanent disappearance of the subcutaneous mass and of the patient's sensory disturbances. Complete excision of the AVH was confirmed on postoperative magnetic resonance angiography, and no surgery-related complications or new neurological symptoms were detected.

Intramuscular AVHs are rare lesions that can be successfully treated with both coil endovascular embolization and surgery; the latter is indicated when endovascular procedures fail to occlude the AVH completely. Intraoperative angiography with ICG can be helpful in confirming the success of the procedure.

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Letter to the Editor

Spontaneous intracranial hypotension

Rob J. M. Groen and Piet V. J. M. Hoogland

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Angelo Franzini, Giuseppe Messina, Vittoria Nazzi, Eliana Mea, Massimo Leone, Luisa Chiapparini, Giovanni Broggi and Gennaro Bussone

Object

Spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH) is a potentially serious pathological syndrome consisting of specific symptoms and neuroradiological signs that can sometimes be used to assess the efficacy of the treatment. In this paper the authors report a series of 28 patients with this syndrome who were all treated with an epidural blood patch at the authors' institution. The authors propose a novel physiopathological theory of SIH based on some anatomical considerations about the spinal venous drainage system.

Methods

Between January 1993 and January 2007, the authors treated 28 patients in whom SIH had been diagnosed. Twenty-seven of the 28 patients presented with the typical findings of SIH on brain MR imaging (dural enhancement and thickening subdural collections, caudal displacement of cerebellar tonsils, and reduction in height of suprachiasmatic cisterns). The sites of the patients' neuroradiologically suspected CSF leakage were different, but the blood patch procedure was performed at the lumbar level in all patients. The patients were then assessed at 3-month and 1- and 3-year follow-up visits. At the last visit (although only available for 11 patients) 83.3% of patients were completely free from clinical symptoms and 8.3% complained of sporadic orthostatic headache.

Results

The authors think that in the so-called SIH syndrome, the dural leak, even in those cases in which it can be clearly identified on neuroradiological examinations, is not the cause of the disease but the effect of the epidural hypotension maintained by the inferior cava vein outflow to the heart. The goal of their blood patch procedure (a sort of epidural block obtained using autologous blood and fibrin glue at the L1–2 level) is not to seal CSF leaks, but instead to help in reversing the CSF-blood gradient within the epidural space along the entire cord.

Conclusions

The authors' procedure seems to lead to good and long-lasting clinical results.

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Michele Rizzi, Andrea Trezza, Giuseppe Messina, Alessandro De Benedictis, Angelo Franzini and Carlo Efisio Marras

Neurological surgery offers an opportunity to study brain functions, through either resection or implanted neuromodulation devices. Pathological aggressive behavior in patients with intellectual disability is a frequent condition that is difficult to treat using either supportive care or pharmacological therapy. The bulk of the laboratory studies performed throughout the 19th century enabled the formulation of hypotheses on brain circuits involved in the generation of emotions. Aggressive behavior was also studied extensively. Lesional radiofrequency surgery of the posterior hypothalamus, which peaked in the 1970s, was shown to be an effective therapy in many reported series. As with other surgical procedures for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, however, this therapy was abandoned for many reasons, including the risk of its misuse. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) offers the possibility of treating neurological and psychoaffective disorders through relatively reversible and adaptable therapy. Deep brain stimulation of the posterior hypothalamus was proposed and performed successfully in 2005 as a treatment for aggressive behavior. Other groups reported positive outcomes using target and parameter settings similar to those of the original study. Both the lesional and DBS approaches enabled researchers to explore the role of the posterior hypothalamus (or posterior hypothalamic area) in the autonomic and emotional systems.

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Carlo Efisio Marras, Michele Rizzi, Flavio Villani, Giuseppe Messina, Francesco Deleo, Roberto Cordella and Angelo Franzini

Hypothalamic hamartomas (HHs) are developmental malformations associated with a range of neurological problems, including intractable seizures. There is increasing evidence of the epileptogenicity of the hamartoma and of the inhomogeneous distribution of the epileptic abnormalities within the malformation. The management strategy for treatment and results differ according to the insertion plane and the extension of the malformation into the hypothalamus. Cases characterized by extensive involvement of the hypothalamus are particularly challenging.

The authors describe the case of a patient with drug-resistant epilepsy and a large hypothalamic hamartoma with an extensive area of attachment. The patient underwent implantation of 2 deep brain electrodes. The intraoperative recording showed a synchronous interictal epileptic discharge in the left temporal lobe and on the left side of the lesion. The patient was treated with chronic high-frequency stimulation. No side effects due to the stimulation were reported. At 18 months' follow-up, a reduction in complex partial seizure frequency was reported, but no significant reduction in overall seizure frequency was noticed (p = 0.14, t-test).

The authors report on neurophysiological studies of the relationship between HH and epilepsy, and also discuss the literature on chronic high-frequency stimulation, including its rationale and the results of chronic stimulation of various targets for the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy due to HH.

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Letter to the Editor

Spontaneous intracranial hypotension

Enrico Ferrante, Gerardo Fabio Rubino, Simonetta Passarani and Ines Arpino

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Angelo Franzini, Giuseppe Messina, Carlo Marras, Franco Molteni, Roberto Cordella, Paola Soliveri and Giovanni Broggi

The authors report the case of an adult patient with irreducible fixed dystonia (inward rotation) of the right foot that arose after cardioembolic ischemia of the left putamen and globus pallidus externus. Given the resistance of such symptomatology to all of the attempted conservative treatments (including botulinum toxin), the authors decided to perform deep brain stimulation, positioning the intracerebral electrode in the left internal capsule at the level of the motor fibers controlling the right foot, as confirmed by intraoperative electromyography. After the intervention, the patient was able to perform voluntary movements of outward rotation and abduction in the right foot and begin gait rehabilitation. Deep brain stimulation of the posterior limb of the internal capsule could be an alternative target used to treat poststroke fixed dystonic conditions.

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Andrea Franzini, Giuseppe Messina, Vincenzo Levi, Antonio D’Ammando, Roberto Cordella, Shayan Moosa, Francesco Prada and Angelo Franzini

OBJECTIVE

Central poststroke neuropathic pain is a debilitating syndrome that is often resistant to medical therapies. Surgical measures include motor cortex stimulation and deep brain stimulation (DBS), which have been used to relieve pain. The aim of this study was to retrospectively assess the safety and long-term efficacy of DBS of the posterior limb of the internal capsule for relieving central poststroke neuropathic pain and associated spasticity affecting the lower limb.

METHODS

Clinical and surgical data were retrospectively collected and analyzed in all patients who had undergone DBS of the posterior limb of the internal capsule to address central poststroke neuropathic pain refractory to conservative measures. In addition, long-term pain intensity and level of satisfaction gained from stimulation were assessed. Pain was evaluated using the visual analog scale (VAS). Information on gait improvement was obtained from medical records, neurological examination, and interview.

RESULTS

Four patients have undergone the procedure since 2001. No mortality or morbidity related to the surgery was recorded. In three patients, stimulation of the posterior limb of the internal capsule resulted in long-term pain relief; in a fourth patient, the procedure failed to produce any long-lasting positive effect. Two patients obtained a reduction in spasticity and improved motor capability. Before surgery, the mean VAS score was 9 (range 8–10). In the immediate postoperative period and within 1 week after the DBS system had been turned on, the mean VAS score was significantly lower at a mean of 3 (range 0–6). After a mean follow-up of 5.88 years, the mean VAS score was still reduced at 5.5 (range 3–8). The mean percentage of long-term pain reduction was 38.13%.

CONCLUSIONS

This series suggests that stimulation of the posterior limb of the internal capsule is safe and effective in treating patients with chronic neuropathic pain affecting the lower limb. The procedure may be a more targeted treatment method than motor cortex stimulation or other neuromodulation techniques in the subset of patients whose pain and spasticity are referred to the lower limbs.