Objective: Although stereotactic radiosurgery is an established procedure for treating trigeminal neuralgia (TN), the likelihood of a prompt and durable complete response is not assured. Moreover, the incidence of facial numbness remains a challenge. To address these limitations, a new, more anatomic radiosurgical procedure was developed that uses the CyberKnife (Accuray, Inc., Sunnyvale, CA) to lesion an elongated segment of the retrogasserian cisternal portion of the trigeminal sensory root. Because the initial experience with this approach resulted in an unacceptably high incidence of facial numbness, a gradual dose and volume de-escalation was performed over several years. In this single-institution prospective study, we evaluated clinical outcomes in a group of TN patients who underwent lesioning with seemingly optimized nonisocentric radiosurgical parameters.
Methods: Forty-six patients with intractable idiopathic TN were treated between January 2005 and June 2007. Eligible patients were either poor surgical candidates or had failed previous microvascular decompression or destructive procedures. During a single radiosurgical session, a 6-mm segment of the affected nerve was treated with a mean marginal prescription dose of 58.3 Gy and a mean maximal dose of 73.5 Gy. Monthly neurosurgical follow-up was performed until the patient became pain-free. Longer-term follow-up was performed both in the clinic and over the telephone. Outcomes were graded as excellent (pain-free and off medication), good (>90% improvement while still on medication), fair (50-90% improvement), or poor (no change or worse). Facial numbness was assessed using the Barrow Neurological Institute Facial Numbness Scale score.
Results: Symptoms disappeared completely in 39 patients (85%) after a mean latency of 5.2 weeks. In most of these patients, pain relief began within the first week. TN recurred in a single patient after a pain-free interval of 7 months; all symptoms abated after a second radiosurgical procedure. Four additional patients underwent a repeat rhizotomy after failing to respond adequately to the first operation. After a mean follow-up period of 14.7 months, patient-reported outcomes were excellent in 33 patients (72%), good in 11 patients (24%), and poor/no improvement in 2 patients (4%). Significant ipsilateral facial numbness (Grade III on the Barrow Neurological Institute Scale) was reported in 7 patients (15%).
Conclusion: Optimized nonisocentric CyberKnife parameters for TN treatment resulted in high rates of pain relief and a more acceptable incidence of facial numbness than reported previously. Longer follow-up periods will be required to establish whether or not the durability of symptom relief after lesioning an elongated segment of the trigeminal root is superior to isocentric radiosurgical rhizotomy.