"This has proven to be a safe, effective treatment for trigeminal neuralgia patients, without the potential facial paralysis and long-term recovery experienced with conventional surgery," said Volker Stieber, M.D., co-director of the Gamma Knife Program at Wake Forest Baptist.
Results of the study are being presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) meeting in Denver on Oct.19.
Led by principal investigator Stieber, the Gamma Knife team evaluated the outcomes of more than 400 patients who received GKRS for facial pain. GKRS is a non-invasive, outpatient treatment. The Gamma Knife unit aims 201 narrow "pencil beams" of radioactive cobalt-60 at the trigeminal nerve focusing precisely on the target and minimizing radiation effects to surrounding healthy tissues.
Ninety percent of patients with trigeminal neuralgia had significant pain relief within an average of four weeks. Approximately one-third of these patients did experience some degree of facial numbness, but 80 percent reported a significant improvement in their quality of life since the numbness was much more tolerable than the facial pain.
Trigeminal neuralgia, also known as tic douloureaux, is characterized by electric shock-like pain in one or more of the three trigeminal nerve distributions in the face. Some common triggers of pain include eating, brushing teeth, talking and exposure to cold air.