Nerve atrophy in trigeminal neuralgia due to neurovascular compression and its association with surgical outcomes after microvascular decompression

Acta Neurochir (2017) 159:1699–1705

Idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is caused by neurovascular compression and is often related to morphological changes in the trigeminal nerve. The aim of this study was to quantitatively measure atrophic changes of trigeminal nerves in patients with TN, and to further investigate whether nerve atrophy affected the efficacy of microvascular decompression (MVD).

Methods We conducted a prospective case-control study of 60 consecutive patients with TN and 30 sex- and age-matched healthy controls. All subjects underwent high-resolution three-dimensional MRI. The volume of the cisternal segment of trigeminal nerves was measured and compared using 3D Slicer software. Patients with TN underwent primary MVD and regular follow-up for at least 2 years. Associations of nerve atrophy with patient characteristics and operative outcomes were analyzed.

Results The mean volume of the affected trigeminal nerve was significantly reduced in comparison to that of the nonaffected side (65.8 ± 21.1 versus 77.9 ± 19.3 mm3, P = 0.001) and controls (65.8 ± 21.1 versus 74.7 ± 16.5 mm3, P = 0.003). Fifty-two patients (86.7%) achieved complete pain relief without medication immediately after surgery, and 77.6% of patients were complete pain relief at the 2-year follow-up. The Spearman correlation test showed that there was a positive correlation (r=0.46, P = 0.018) between the degree of trigeminal nerve indentation and nerve atrophy. In multivariate logistic regression analysis, two factors, indentation on nerve root (OR = 2.968, P = 0.022) and degree of nerve atrophy (OR = 1.18, P = 0.035), were associated with the long-term outcome.

Conclusions TN is associated with atrophy on the affected nerve. Furthermore, greater nerve atrophy is associated with more severe trigeminal nerve indentation and better long-term outcome following MVD.

Degree of distal trigeminal nerve atrophy predicts outcome after microvascular decompression for Type 1a trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia due to neurovascular conflicts from venous origin- an anatomical-surgical study-1

J Neurosurg 123:1512–1518, 2015

Trigeminal neuralgia is often associated with nerve atrophy, in addition to vascular compression. The authors evaluated whether cross-sectional areas of different portions of the trigeminal nerve on preoperative imaging could be used to predict outcome after microvascular decompression (MVD).

Methods A total of 26 consecutive patients with unilateral Type 1a trigeminal neuralgia underwent high-resolution fast-field echo MRI of the cerebellopontine angle followed by MVD. Preoperative images were reconstructed and reviewed by 2 examiners blinded to the side of symptoms and clinical outcome. For each nerve, a computerized automatic segmentation algorithm was used to calculate the coronal cross-sectional area at the proximal nerve near the root entry zone and the distal nerve at the exit from the porus trigeminus. Findings were correlated with outcome at 12 months.

Results After MVD, 17 patients were pain free and not taking medications compared with 9 with residual pain. Across all cases, the coronal cross-sectional area of the symptomatic trigeminal nerve was significantly smaller than the asymptomatic side in the proximal part of the nerve, which was correlated with degree of compression at surgery. Atrophy of the distal trigeminal nerve was more pronounced in patients who had residual pain than in those with excellent outcome. Among the 7 patients who had greater than 20% loss of nerve volume in the distal nerve, only 2 were pain free and not taking medications at long-term follow-up.

Conclusions Trigeminal neuralgia is associated with atrophy of the root entry zone of the affected nerve compared with the asymptomatic side, but volume loss in different segments of the nerve has very different prognostic implications. Proximal atrophy is associated with vascular compression and correlates with improved outcome following MVD. However, distal atrophy is associated with a significantly worse outcome after MVD.