Retreatment of trigeminal neuralgia with Gamma Knife radiosurgery: is there an appropriate cumulative dose?

J Neurosurg 111:359–364, 2009

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a disorder of the trigeminal nerve that results in intense episodic pain. Primary treatment with Gamma Knife surgery (GKS) is well established; however, a significant number of patients experience recurrence of TN over time. Repeat GKS can be performed, but the retreatment dose has not been well established. In this study, the authors present their institutional retreatment results and compare them with other series.

Between December 2003 and January 2006, 28 patients were treated at Tufts Medical Center with repeat GKS for recurrence of TN. All patients had been initially treated with GKS at this institution, and only those with significant pain improvement were offered retreatment. The maximum dose was prescribed using a single isocenter; the 4-mm collimator was used. The initial median GKS dose was 80 Gy, the median retreatment dose was 45 Gy, and the median cumulative dose was 125 Gy. The median time between GKS procedures was 18.1 months. Facial pain outcomes were defined using the Marseille scale. Excellent outcome was defined as no pain (with or without medications), and good outcome was defined as > 50% pain relief. Toxicity was categorized as none, mild, or bothersome. The median clinical follow-up after the second GKS was 19.7 months. Our clinical outcomes were compared with 8 previously reported retreatment series (including 1 abstract), both for rate of pain control and for rate of complications.

Outcomes after the second GKS were excellent in 29% (8 patients), good in 32% (9), and poor in 39% (11). Four patients (14%) experienced no improvement after repeat GKS. Eight patients (29%) experienced new trigeminal nerve dysfunction, including numbness (11%), paresthesia (14%), dysesthesia (4%), taste alteration (11%), and bite weakness (4%). None of these were bothersome. No patient developed corneal numbness. Univariate analysis failed to reveal any significant predictors of pain control or complications.

Seven published peer-reviewed retreatment series and the authors’ data (total 215 patients) were analyzed. There was a cumulative dose-response relationship for both pain control (p = 0.04) and new trigeminal dysfunction (p = 0.08). Successful pain control was strongly correlated with development of new dysfunction (p = 0.02). A cumulative dose > 130 Gy was more likely to result in successful (> 50%) pain control, but was also more likely (> 20%) to result in development of new dysfunction.

Successful retreatment of patients in whom the initial GKS treatment fails is feasible. Patients who respond initially may be at a higher risk of retreatment-related complications. There appears to be a dose-response relationship for both pain control and development of new side effects. It is important to counsel and treat patients individually based on this dose-response relationship.

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