Effect of lesion temperature on the durability of percutaneous radiofrequency rhizotomies to treat trigeminal neuralgia

J Neurosurg 139:625–632, 2023

Percutaneous radiofrequency rhizotomy is a common procedure for trigeminal neuralgia (TN) that creates thermocoagulative lesions in the trigeminal ganglion. Lesioning parameters for the procedure are left to the individual surgeon’s discretion, and published guidance is primarily anecdotal. The purpose of this work was to assess the role of lesioning temperature on long-term surgical outcomes.

METHODS This was a retrospective analysis of patients who underwent percutaneous radiofrequency rhizotomy from 2009 to 2020. Patient data, including demographics, disease presentation, surgical treatment, and outcomes, were collected from medical records. The primary endpoint was the recurrence of TN pain. Univariate and multivariate Cox proportional hazards regressions were used to assess the impact of chosen covariates on pain-free survival.

RESULTS A total of 280 patients who had undergone 464 procedures were included in the analysis. Overall, roughly 80% of patients who underwent rhizotomy would have a recurrence within 10 years. Lower lesion temperature was predictive of longer periods without pain recurrence (HR 1.05, p < 0.001). The inclusion of lesion time, postoperative numbness, prior history of radiofrequency rhizotomy, surgeon, and multiple sclerosis as confounding variables did not affect the hazard ratio or the statistical significance of this finding. Postoperative numbness and the absence of multiple sclerosis were significant protective factors in the model.

CONCLUSIONS The study findings suggest that lower lesion temperatures and, separately, postoperative numbness result in improved long-term outcomes for patients with TN who undergo percutaneous radiofrequency rhizotomies. Given the limitations of retrospective analysis, the authors suggest that a prospective multisite clinical trial testing lesion temperatures would provide definitive guidance on this issue with specific recommendations about the number needed to treat and trial design.