The prevalence of trigeminal neuralgia (TN) in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS-TN) is higher than in the general population (idiopathic TN [ITN]). Glycerol rhizotomy (GR) is a percutaneous lesioning surgery commonly performed for the treatment of medically refractory TN. While treatment for acute pain relief is excellent, long-term pain relief is poorer. The object of this study was to assess the efficacy of percutaneous retrogasserian GR for the treatment of MS-TN versus ITN.
A retrospective chart review was performed, identifying 219 patients who had undergone 401 GR procedures from 1983 to 2018 at a single academic institution. All patients were diagnosed with medically refractory MS-TN (182 procedures) or ITN (219 procedures). The primary outcome measures of interest were immediate pain relief and time to pain recurrence following initial and repeat GR procedures. Secondary outcomes included medication usage and presence of periprocedural hypesthesia.
The initial pain-free response rate was similar between groups (p = 0.726): MS-TN initial GR 89.6%; MS-TN repeat GR 91.9%; ITN initial GR 89.6%; ITN repeat GR 87.0%. The median time to recurrence after initial GR was similar between MS-TN (2.7 ± 1.3 years) and ITN (2.1 ± 0.6 years) patients (p = 0.87). However, there was a statistically significant difference in the time to recurrence after repeat GR between MS-TN (2.3 ± 0.5 years) and ITN patients (1.2 ± 0.2 years; p < 0.05). The presence of periprocedural hypesthesia was highly predictive of pain-free survival (p < 0.01).
Patients with MS-TN achieve meaningful pain relief following GR, with an efficacy comparable to that following GR in patients with ITN. Initial and subsequent GR procedures are equally efficacious.