Object: Gamma knife surgery (GKS) has emerged as a suitable treatment of pharmacologically resistant idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia. The optimal radiation dose and target for this therapy, however, remain to be defined. The authors analyzed the results of GKS in which a high dose of radiation and a distal target was used, to determine the best parameters for this treatment.
Methods: The authors evaluated results in 47 patients who were treated with this approach. All patients underwent clinical and magnetic resonance imaging examinations at 6 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year post-GKS. Fifteen potential prognostic factors associated with favorable pain control were studied. The mean follow-up period was 16 months (range 6-42 months). The initial pain relief was excellent (100% pain control) in 32 patients, good (90-99% pain control) in seven patients, fair (50-89% pain control) in three patients, and poor (< 50% pain control) in five patients. The actuarial curve of pain relief displayed a 59% rate of excellent pain control and a 71% excellent or good pain control at 42 months after radiosurgery. Radiosurgery-induced facial numbness was bothersome for two patients and mild for 18 patients. Three prognostic factors were found to be statistically significant factors for successful pain relief: a shorter distance between the target and the brainstem, a higher radiation dose delivered to the brainstem, and the development of a facial sensory disturbance after radiosurgery.
Conclusions: To optimize pain control and minimize complications of this therapy, we recommend that the nerve be targeted at a distance of 5 to 8 mm from the brainstem.