Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) has been used to treat trigeminal neuralgia by targeting the cisternal segment of the trigeminal nerve, which in turn triggers changes in the gasserian ganglion. In the lumbar spine, the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) is responsible for transmitting pain sensitivity and is involved in the pathogenesis of peripheral neuropathic pain. Therefore, radiosurgery to the DRG might improve chronic peripheral pain. This study evaluated the clinical and histological effects of high-dose radiosurgery to the DRG in a rodent model.
Eight Sprague-Dawley rats received either 40- or 80-Gy SRS to the fifth and sixth lumbar DRGs using the Leksell Gamma Knife Icon. Animals were euthanized 3 months after treatment, and the lumbar spine was dissected and taken for analysis. Simple histology was used to assess collagen deposition and inflammatory response. GFAP, Neu-N, substance P, and internexin were used as a measure of peripheral glial activation, neurogenesis, pain-specific neurotransmission, and neurotransmission in general, respectively. The integrity of the spinothalamic tract was assessed by means of the von Frey test.
The animals did not exhibit any signs of motor or sensory deficits during the experimentation period. Edema, fibrosis, and vascular sclerotic changes were present on the treated, but not the control, side. SRS reduced the expression of GFAP without affecting the expression of Neu-N, substance P, or internexin. The von Frey sensory perception elicited equivalent results for the control side and both radiosurgical doses.
SRS did not alter sensory or motor function but reduced the activation of satellite glial cells, a pathway for DRG-mediated pain perpetuation. Radiosurgery provoked changes equivalent to the effects of focal radiation on the trigeminal ganglion after SRS for trigeminal neuralgia, suggesting that radiosurgery could be successful in relieving radiculopathic pain.