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Sharona Ben-Haim, Zaman Mirzadeh and William S. Rosenberg

OBJECTIVE

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a well-established, evidence-based therapy with FDA approval for Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. Despite the early successful use of DBS to target the sensory thalamus for intractable facial pain, subsequent studies pursuing various chronic pain syndromes reported variable efficacy, keeping DBS for pain as an investigational and “off-label” use. The authors report promising results for a contemporary series of patients with intractable facial pain who were treated with DBS.

METHODS

Pain outcomes for 7 consecutive patients with unilateral, intractable facial pain undergoing DBS of the ventral posteromedial nucleus of the thalamus (VPM) and the periaqueductal gray (PAG) were retrospectively reviewed. Pain was assessed preoperatively and at multiple postoperative time points using the visual analog scale (VAS), the Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire-2 (SF-MPQ-2), and the Pain Disability Index (PDI).

RESULTS

VAS scores significantly decreased from a mean ± SD of 9.0 ± 1.3 preoperatively to 2.6 ± 1.5 at 1 year postoperatively (p = 0.001). PDI scores decreased from a mean total of 48.5 to 28.5 (p = 0.01). SF-MPQ-2 scores decreased from a mean of 4.6 to 2.4 (p = 0.03). Notably, several patients did not experience maximum improvement until 6–9 months postoperatively, correlating with repeated programming adjustments.

CONCLUSIONS

DBS of the VPM and PAG is a potential therapeutic option for patients suffering from severe, intractable facial pain refractory to other interventions. Improved efficacy may be observed over time with close follow-up and active DBS programming adjustments.

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Jeffrey A. Steinberg, Jayson Sack, Bayard Wilson, David Weingarten, Bob Carter, Alexander Khalessi, Sharona Ben-Haim and John Alksne

OBJECTIVE

Trigeminal neuralgia is a debilitating pain disorder most often caused by arterial compression of the trigeminal nerve, although there are other etiologies. Microvascular decompression (MVD) remains the most definitive treatment for this disorder, with cure rates reported between 60% and 80%. Traditional MVD techniques involve a retrosigmoid craniotomy with placement of an inert foreign material, such as Teflon, between the nerve and compressive vessel. Recurrence of trigeminal neuralgia after MVD has been associated with vessel migration, adhesion formation, and arterial pulsation against the Teflon abutting the nerve. Additionally, foreign materials such as Teflon have been reported to trigger inflammatory responses, resulting in recurrence of trigeminal pain. An alternative method for decompression involves the use of a sling to transpose the compressive vessel away from the nerve. Results of various sling techniques as a decompressive strategy are limited to small series and case reports. In this study, the authors present their experience utilizing a tentorial sling for MVD in patients with trigeminal neuralgia.

METHODS

Institutional review board approval was obtained in order to contact patients who underwent MVD for trigeminal neuralgia via the tentorial sling technique. Clinical outcomes were assessed utilizing the Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) pain intensity score immediately after surgery and at the time of the study.

RESULTS

The tentorial sling technique was performed in 45 patients undergoing MVD for trigeminal neuralgia. In 41 of these patients, this procedure was their first decompressive surgery. Immediate postoperative relief of pain (BNI score I) was achieved in 80% of patients undergoing their first decompressive procedure. At last follow-up, 73% of these patients remained pain free. Three patients experienced recurrent trigeminal pain, with surgical exploration demonstrating an intact tentorial sling. The complication rate was 6.6%.

CONCLUSIONS

Transposition techniques for MVD have been described previously in small series and case reports. This study represents the largest experience in which the utilization of a tentorial sling for MVD in patients with trigeminal neuralgia is described. The technique represents a novel method for decompression of the trigeminal nerve by transposition of the offending vessel without the use of foreign material. Although the authors’ preliminary results parallel the historical cure rate, further outcome data are required to assess long-term durability of this method.

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Jeffrey A. Steinberg, Jayson Sack, Bayard Wilson, David Weingarten, Bob Carter, Alexander Khalessi, Sharona Ben-Haim and John Alksne

OBJECTIVE

Trigeminal neuralgia is a debilitating pain disorder most often caused by arterial compression of the trigeminal nerve, although there are other etiologies. Microvascular decompression (MVD) remains the most definitive treatment for this disorder, with cure rates reported between 60% and 80%. Traditional MVD techniques involve a retrosigmoid craniotomy with placement of an inert foreign material, such as Teflon, between the nerve and compressive vessel. Recurrence of trigeminal neuralgia after MVD has been associated with vessel migration, adhesion formation, and arterial pulsation against the Teflon abutting the nerve. Additionally, foreign materials such as Teflon have been reported to trigger inflammatory responses, resulting in recurrence of trigeminal pain. An alternative method for decompression involves the use of a sling to transpose the compressive vessel away from the nerve. Results of various sling techniques as a decompressive strategy are limited to small series and case reports. In this study, the authors present their experience utilizing a tentorial sling for MVD in patients with trigeminal neuralgia.

METHODS

Institutional review board approval was obtained in order to contact patients who underwent MVD for trigeminal neuralgia via the tentorial sling technique. Clinical outcomes were assessed utilizing the Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) pain intensity score immediately after surgery and at the time of the study.

RESULTS

The tentorial sling technique was performed in 45 patients undergoing MVD for trigeminal neuralgia. In 41 of these patients, this procedure was their first decompressive surgery. Immediate postoperative relief of pain (BNI score I) was achieved in 80% of patients undergoing their first decompressive procedure. At last follow-up, 73% of these patients remained pain free. Three patients experienced recurrent trigeminal pain, with surgical exploration demonstrating an intact tentorial sling. The complication rate was 6.6%.

CONCLUSIONS

Transposition techniques for MVD have been described previously in small series and case reports. This study represents the largest experience in which the utilization of a tentorial sling for MVD in patients with trigeminal neuralgia is described. The technique represents a novel method for decompression of the trigeminal nerve by transposition of the offending vessel without the use of foreign material. Although the authors’ preliminary results parallel the historical cure rate, further outcome data are required to assess long-term durability of this method.

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Mihir Gupta, Allison Reichl, Luis Daniel Diaz-Aguilar, Pate J. Duddleston, Jamie S. Ullman, Karin M. Muraszko, Shelly D. Timmons, Isabelle M. Germano, Aviva Abosch, Jennifer A. Sweet, Susan C. Pannullo, Deborah L. Benzil and Sharona Ben-Haim

OBJECTIVE

Despite recently heightened advocacy efforts relating to pregnancy and family leave policies in multiple surgical specialties, no studies to date have described female neurosurgeons’ experiences with childbearing. The AANS/CNS Section of Women in Neurosurgery created the Women and Pregnancy Task Force to ascertain female neurosurgeons’ experiences with and attitudes toward pregnancy and the role of family leave policies.

METHODS

A voluntary online 28-question survey examined the pregnancy experiences of female neurosurgeons and perceived barriers to childbearing. The survey was developed and electronically distributed to all members of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons who self-identified as female in February 2016. Responses from female resident physicians, fellows, and current or retired practicing neurosurgeons were analyzed.

RESULTS

A total of 126 women (20.3%) responded to the survey; 57 participants (49%) already had children, and 39 (33%) planned to do so. Participants overwhelmingly had or planned to have children during the early practice and senior residency years. The most frequent obstacles experienced or anticipated included insufficient time to care for newborns (47% of women with children, 92% of women planning to have children), discrimination by coworkers (31% and 77%, respectively), and inadequate time for completion of board requirements (18% and 51%, respectively). There was substantial variability in family leave policies, and a minority of participants (35%) endorsed the presence of any formal policy at their institution. Respondents described myriad unique challenges associated with pregnancy and family leave.

CONCLUSIONS

Pregnancy and family leave pose significant challenges to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in neurosurgery. It is thus imperative to promote clear family leave policies for trainees and practitioners, address discrimination surrounding these topics, and encourage forethought and flexibility to tackle obstacles inherent in pregnancy and the early stages of child rearing.