Gamma Knife radiosurgery is one of the most recent and least invasive neurosurgical treatment for trigeminal neuralgia.
What is trigeminal neuralgia?
Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder of one or both of the facial nerves.
What are the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia?
Symptoms are episodes of intense pain normally on one side of the face. The pain is often triggered by sensory stimuli such as touching the skin of the face, eating or brushing teeth. In the majority of cases the cause remains unknown. It is, however, commonly believed that injury to the trigeminal nerve root caused by pressure from a pulsating blood vessel is the cause in most cases. It also, but rarely, occurs as a complication to multiple sclerosis. A benign tumour is also a rare causative factor.
How is trigeminal neuralgia diagnosed?
The diagnosis is normally made based on the recognised clinical characteristics. An MRI scan is usually made to rule out the rare occurrence of secondary trigeminal neuralgia.
How is trigeminal neuralgia treated?
The first line of treatment is drug therapy. Carbamazepine (Tegretol) is the most commonly used drugs but others are available. There are numerous surgical procedures available for drug resistant pain. Microvascular decompression is a procedure intended to move the blood vessel compressing the nerve root close to the brain stem. For this procedure a craniotomy under general anaesthesia is required.
Other procedures such as glycerol rhizotomy and radiofrequency thermocoagulation are done by inserting a cannula or needle into the opening for the nerve root in the skull base. The latter procedures are usually done under local anaesthesia or brief general anaesthesia.
Gamma Knife surgery is becoming increasingly popular because of its efficacy and popularity with patients. The procedure has been in frequent use only during the past 6-7 years and therefore reports on long term follow up are still needed. Should the short term results reported prove to be lasting, this procedure may become the first treatment option for trigeminal neuralgia.
For more information on pre- and post-treatment for trigeminal neuralgia with Gamma Knife, see the related downloads section below.
Further information on trigeminal neuralgia
Please contact the Gamma Knife Centre directly or go to The Trigeminal Neuralgia Association.
For health professionals
If you would like more information on the clinical applications of Gamma Knife treatment for trigeminal neuralgia, please see Professor Lippitz's website.