MR-Guided Focused Ultrasound Central Lateral Thalamotomy for Trigeminal Neuralgia. Single Center Experience

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Front. Neurol., 17 April 2020 |

Background: Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a recognized pain condition the treatment of which can be very challenging. Various surgical interventions can be applied in cases of therapy-resistance to drug treatments. The central lateral thalamotomy (CLT) against neurogenic (or neuropathic) pain is based on multiarchitectonic histological as well as physiopathological studies, and integrates the nucleus in a large thalamocortical (TC) and corticocortical network responsible for the sensory, cognitive and affective/emotional components of pain. The advent of the magnetic resonance imaging guided high intensity focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) brought a strong reduction in morbidity and increase in accuracy compared to penetration techniques.

Objective: This study was aimed at analyzing the outcome of bilateral MRgFUS CLT for chronic therapy-resistant trigeminal pain, all performed in one single center.

Methods: Patients were categorized in Classical, Idiopathic and Secondary TN. By definition, paroxysms lasted for seconds up to 2 min. All patients were screened for trigeminal neurovascular conflict. In case of classical TN, microvascular decompression was proposed. Therapy-resistance and thus indication for MRgFUS CLT was based on the lack of efficacy and/or side effects of antiepileptic and antidepressant drugs. Good outcome was defined by a pain relief ≥50%.

Results: Eight patients suffering from chronic therapy-resistant trigeminal neuralgia were treated. All suffered from pain with paroxysmal character. Six patients reported additionally continuous pain. Mean follow-up was 53 months (range: 12–92, median: 60 months). The mean pain relief assessed by patients was 51% (median: 58%, range: 0–90%) at 3 months, 71% (median: 65%, range: 40–100%) at 1 year and 78% (median: 75%, range: 50–100%) at their longest follow-up. This represents 63% good outcomes at 3 months, 88% at 1 year and 100% at last follow-up. Frequency of the mean pain paroxysms decreased from 84 per day preoperative to 3.9 at 1 year postoperatively. There were no serious adverse events in this series.

Conclusion: Our study provides preliminary support for the safety and efficacy of MRgFUS CLT, a histologically and pathophysiologically based medial thalamotomy against chronic therapy-resistant trigeminal neuralgia.