Gamma Knife Radiosurgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia: Role of Trigeminal Length and Pontotrigeminal Angle on Target Definition and on Clinical Effects

World Neurosurg. 2020 Oct:142:e140-e150. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2020.06.147. Epub 2020 Jun 26.


Objective: Gamma Knife radiosurgery (GKRS) is a well-defined treatment for trigeminal neuralgia. The aim of this study was to determine how the GKRS planning might change on the basis of the patient's own anatomy and how to best choose the target location.

Methods: Trigeminal cisternal length, pontotrigeminal angle, and distance between middle of the shot and emergence were evaluated in 112 consecutive GKRS plans for trigeminal neuralgia. Correlations with pain outcomes and facial hypoesthesia were analyzed.

Results: The mean angle was 29° ± 4.4° and 37° ± 0.9°, respectively, in patients developing and not developing severe hypoesthesia (P = 0.045), despite no significant difference on brainstem dose (11.9 ± 0.8 and 10.5 ± 0.3 Gy; P = 0.22). The length of the nerve was not relevant on clinical outcomes but the shot-emergence distance (mean 8.1 ± 0.2 mm) depended on both trigeminal length and angle (P = 0.01). At constant prescription dose, 6-month cumulative rates of pain relief and control without therapy were 52.9% when the shot-emergence distance was ≤8 mm, whereas 25% when this distance was >8 mm (P = 0.017). The maintenance of good pain control was more long lasting in the first group (49.5 ± 6.6 vs. 25.4 ± 5 months; P = 0.006) with a 5-year cumulative rate of 70% and 26%, respectively (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: The pontotrigeminal angle and the shot-emergence distance should be considered during GKRS planning: the first as a potential risk factor for hypoesthesia, and the second should not exceed 8 mm.

Keywords: Gamma Knife radiosurgery; Pontotrigeminal angle; Retrogasserian target; Root entry zone; Trigeminal nerve length; Trigeminal neuralgia.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain Stem
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypesthesia / epidemiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organ Size
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pons / anatomy & histology
  • Pons / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiosurgery / methods*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trigeminal Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Trigeminal Nerve / diagnostic imaging*
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia / radiotherapy*