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Jacob N. Young and Robert H. Wilkins

✓ Microvascular decompression is preferred among open procedures for the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. However, in some cases the decompression cannot be performed, either because no significant vascular compression of the trigeminal nerve is found at surgery or because a patient's vascular anatomy makes it unsafe. Partial sensory rhizotomy is a commonly used alternative in these instances. The outcome after partial sensory rhizotomy was reviewed retrospectively in 83 patients with an average follow-up period of 72 months. Sixty-four (77%) of these patients had no evidence of vascular contact at operation. The remaining 19 patients (23%) had vascular structures in proximity to the trigeminal nerve but still underwent partial sensory rhizotomy in place of or in addition to microvascular decompression either because the offending vessel could not be moved adequately (11 cases) or because the vascular contact was considered insignificant (eight cases). Outcome was classified as: excellent if there was no trigeminal neuralgia postoperatively; good if pain persisted or recurred but was less severe than preoperatively; and poor if persistent or recurrent pain was equal to or greater than the preoperative pain in severity and was refractory to medication, or was severe enough to require additional surgery. The outcome was excellent in 40 patients (48%), good in 18 (22%), and poor in 25 (30%); follow-up durations were similar for the three outcome categories. The failure rate was 17% for the 1st year and averaged 2.6% each year thereafter. Two variables were predictive of a poor outcome: prior surgery and lack of preoperative involvement of the third trigeminal division. Major complications occurred in 4% of cases and minor complications in 11%. The authors conclude that partial sensory rhizotomy is a safe and effective alternative to microvascular decompression when neurovascular compression is not identified at operation or when microvascular decompression cannot be performed for technical reasons.

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Ronald F. Young and Robert B. King

✓ Using random sampling methods and the electron microscope we have verified the impression gained from light microscopy that unmyelinated fibers compose only about 40% of the total fiber count of the trigeminal root. By contrast, recent electron microscopic studies of segmental dorsal roots indicate that, at least in lower vertebrates, unmyelinated fibers compose up to 80% or more of the total. This observation is considered to be of descriptive rather than physiological or pathological significance. The morphological alterations that occur in the spinal trigeminal tract appear to restore the balance in favor of unmyelinated fibers at the functional termination of the trigeminal sensory root.

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Ronald F. Young, Francisco Li, Sandra Vermeulen, and Robert Meier

Object

The goal of this report was to describe the safety and effectiveness of nucleus ventralis intermedius (VIM) thalamotomy performed with the Leksell Gamma Knife (GK) for the treatment of essential tremor (ET).

Methods

One hundred seventy-two patients underwent a total of 214 VIM thalamotomy procedures with the Leksell GK between February 1994 and March 2007 for treatment of disabling ET. Eleven patients were lost to follow-up less than 1 year after the procedures, so that in this report the authors describe the results in 161 patients who underwent a total of 203 thalamotomies (119 unilateral and 42 bilateral).

Results

There were statistically significant decreases (p < 0.0001) in tremor scores for both writing and drawing. The mean postoperative follow-up duration for all patients was 44 ± 33 months. Fifty-four patients have been followed for more than 60 months posttreatment. There were 14 patients who suffered neurological side effects that were temporary (6) or permanent (8), which accounted for 6.9% of the 203 treatments. All complications were related to lesions that grew larger than expected.

Conclusions

A VIM thalamotomy with the Leksell GK offers a safe and effective alternative for surgical treatment of ET. It is particularly applicable to patients who are not ideal candidates for deep brain stimulation but can be offered to all patients who are considering surgical intervention for ET.

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Robert Dempsey, Robert P. Rapp, Byron Young, Sarah Johnston, and Phillip Tibbs

✓ Clean surgical procedures carry a risk of postoperative wound infection that is less than 5% in most hospitals. The use of prophylactic antibiotic agents in clean neurosurgical cases is controversial, and the neurosurgical literature through 1980 contains no controlled clinical trials to study its effectiveness in such cases. A report of 1732 consecutive procedures without a single postoperative wound infection in patients receiving systemic gentamicin, vancomycin, and streptomycin irrigation fluids is often quoted by neurosurgeons; however, these results have not yet been duplicated by others. Since 1980, there have been several controlled trials that support the use in clean neurosurgical cases of prophylactic antibiotics, including the vancomycin/gentamicin/streptomycin regimen and the first-generation cephalosporins. A report in 1986 of 1602 cases without a primary wound infection supports the use of a single perioperative dose of cefazolin. A review of causative organisms in postoperative wound infections demonstrates the preponderance of Gram-positive pathogens. Therefore, when antibiotic prophylaxis is indicated, adequate Gram-positive bacterial coverage, including protection against Staphylococcus infection, is required. With consideration of the present data, the cost of antibiotic therapy, and the danger of drug toxicity, a short perioperative regimen of cefazolin as prophylaxis is preferred in clean neurosurgical cases.

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Byron Young, Robert P. Rapp, J. A. Norton, Dennis Haack, Phillip A. Tibbs, and James R. Bean

✓ A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study was carried out to determine whether phenytoin administered soon after injury lessens the incidence of epilepsy in the 1st week after severe head trauma. In this study, 244 patients were randomized into either a phenytoin or placebo group. The patients in the phenytoin group were administered phenytoin intravenously or intramuscularly within 24 hours of hospital admission. Patients in the placebo group received intravenous or intramuscular diluent. The patients were switched from parenterally administered phenytoin or placebo as soon as oral doses could be tolerated. Over 78% of the phenytoin patients had plasma concentrations of at least 10 µg/ml at 1, 3, and 7 days after injury. There was no significant difference in the percentage of patients having early seizures in the treated and placebo groups (p = 0.99). There was no significant difference in the interval from injury to first seizure between the treated and placebo groups (p = 0.41). The early administration of phenytoin did not lessen the occurrence of seizures in the 1st week after head injury. Since the effectiveness of seizure prophylaxis has not been established, the authors suggest that anticonvulsant drugs be administered only after an early seizure has occurred.

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Mark W. Roy, Robert J. Dempsey, Kathleen L. Meyer, David L. Donaldson, Phillip A. Tibbs, and A. Byron Young

✓ To test the effect of verapamil and diltiazem in acute stroke, three groups of mongrel cats of either sex underwent occlusion of the middle cerebral artery (MCA) via a transorbital approach under ketamine anesthesia. The first group served as controls, the second received an intravenous infusion of verapamil (0.1 µg/kg/min), and the third received an intravenous infusion of diltiazem (0.1 to 1.0 µg/kg/min). All drug infusions began 2 hours before MCA occlusion and continued for the remainder of the experiment. Before and for up to 24 hours after MCA occlusion, regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEP's), arterial blood gases, blood pressure, temperature, and hematocrit were measured at least every 2 hours. At the experiment's end, brains were perfused with India ink, removed, sliced, photographed for determination of nonperfused brain area, and weighed, dried, and reweighed for H2O content determination. In these studies, verapamil was associated with worsening of rCBF in ischemic regions and inappropriate increases in rCBF in nonischemic regions, indicating intracerebral steal. Diltiazem increased rCBF in marginally ischemic regions. Changes in SSEP's paralleled blood flow changes, with verapamil decreasing amplitude and conduction velocity while diltiazem slightly improved conduction in the ischemic brain. Verapamil increased the area of nonperfused brain and the content of cerebral H2O. Diltiazem-treated animals had decreased cerebral H2O content, but had a marked increase in the area of nonperfused brain, a finding associated with the high incidence of transtentorial herniation in the diltiazem-treated animals. These findings agree with in vitro studies demonstrating high sensitivity of cerebral blood vessels to calcium channel blockers. These studies further support the notion that calcium channel blockers probably affect several different classes of calcium channels, at different brain sites.