Trigeminal neuralgia: outcomes after gamma knife radiosurgery

Can J Neurol Sci. 2009 Jan;36(1):78-82. doi: 10.1017/s0317167100006351.


Background: Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) often remains difficult to treat despite multiple available medications, and can severely impact on the quality of life of affected patients. Gamma knife radiosurgery has recently emerged as a minimally-invasive alternative to surgery for patients suffering from drug-resistant TN. The goal of this study was to report the short-term efficacy of gamma knife radiosurgery for TN and assess its impact on the quality of life of patients treated in the first 18 months of our experience.

Methods: Patients with medically-refractory TN or with unacceptable drug side effects were considered for radiosurgery. A maximum dose of 80 Gy was administered to the affected nerve using a single 4-mm isocenter. Follow-up assessments were made at 2,4 and 6 months, with evaluation of pain relief, drug reduction and quality of life. Factors impacting treatment response were assessed using Cox regression analysis.

Results: A total of 67 patients were treated. Significant pain relief was seen in 77.6% of patients, including 32.6% who became pain-free. Patients were able to discontinue all medications in 34.3% or reduce drug intake by more than 50% in an additional 28.4% of cases. No variable was found to predict pain relief although older age (>66 years) approached statistical significance. Sensory side effects were seen in 14.9% of patients. Quality of life improved in the majority of patients after radiosurgery.

Conclusions: Gamma knife radiosurgery is a safe and effective management alternative for trigeminal neuralgia, providing good or excellent pain relief and improvement in quality of life in the majority of patients with few side effects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiosurgery / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia / physiopathology
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia / psychology
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia / surgery*
  • Young Adult