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.
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.
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.
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.