Gamma Knife Central Lateral Thalamotomy for Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Neurosurgery 92:363–369, 2023

Chronic neuropathic pain can be severely disabling and is difficult to treat. The medial thalamus is believed to be involved in the processing of the affectivemotivational dimension of pain, and lesioning of the medial thalamus has been used as a potential treatment for neuropathic pain. Within the medial thalamus, the central lateral nucleus has been considered as a target for stereotactic lesioning.

OBJECTIVE: To study the safety and efficacy of central lateral thalamotomy using Gamma Knife radiosurgery (GKRS) for the treatment of neuropathic pain.

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed all patients with neuropathic pain who underwent central lateral thalamotomy using GKRS. We report on patient outcomes, including changes in pain scores using the Numeric Pain Rating Scale and Barrow Neurological Institute pain intensity score, and adverse events.

RESULTS: Twenty-one patients underwent central lateral thalamotomy using GKRS between 2014 and 2021. Meaningful pain reduction occurred in 12 patients (57%) after a median period of 3 months and persisted in 7 patients (33%) at the last follow-up (the median follow-up was 28 months). Rates of pain reduction at 1, 2, 3, and 5 years were 48%, 48%, 19%, and 19%, respectively. Meaningful pain reduction occurred more frequently in patients with trigeminal deafferentation pain compared with all other patients (P = .009). No patient had treatment-related adverse events.

CONCLUSION: Central lateral thalamotomy using GKRS is remarkably safe. Pain reduction after this procedure occurs in a subset of patients and is more frequent in those with trigeminal deafferentation pain; however, pain recurs frequently over time.