MRgFUS central lateral thalamotomy against chronic and therapy-resistant neuropathic pain: retrospective long-term follow-up analysis of 63 interventions


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OBJECTIVE Medial thalamotomies were introduced in the late 1940s. Pain relief was shown to be achieved for all body locations. With some exceptions, these early relatively small series showed frequent, more or less complete recurrence of the original pain. The posterior part of the central lateral nucleus in the human medial thalamus was identified in the 1990s using multiarchitectonic studies and intraoperative single-cell recordings and was confirmed as a surgical target.
This retrospective patient series extended over 11 years. Its goal was to demonstrate the efficacy and risk profile of the MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) central lateral thalamotomy (CLT) against chronic and therapy-resistant neuropathic (i.e., neurogenic) pain.

METHODS In this single-center, nonrandomized retrospective cross-sectional analysis of consecutive patients, 63 consecutive MRgFUS CLT interventions were performed in 55 patients.

RESULTS The mean follow-up duration was 55 months. A total of 112 CLT targets were performed, and the CLT was applied bilaterally in 48 patients and contralateral to their pain in 7 patients. Repeat MRgFUS interventions were performed in 8 patients. One serious adverse event with numbness of the upper lip was recorded. The mean pain relief rated by patients was 42% ± 32% at 3 months, 43% ± 36% at 1 year, and 42% ± 37% at the last follow-up (n = 63). The proportions of cases with ≥ 30% pain relief were 65% at 3 months, 63% at 1 year, and 61% at the last follow-up. Good outcomes (≥ 50% pain relief) were found in 54% of patients at 3 months, 49% at 1 year, and 51% at the last follow-up. The reduction in mean VAS scores showed similar percentage reductions as those for pain relief (−41% for continuous pain and −49% for pain attacks) at the 1-year follow-up. The mean frequency of pain attacks was reduced by 92%. Allodynia was reduced or suppressed in 68% of patients and never appeared de novo after MRgFUS CLT.

CONCLUSIONS These results suggest that MRgFUS CLT against neuropathic pain is a safe approach and its results are stable over time. At a mean follow-up duration of 55 months, the mean pain relief was 42% and more than 50% of patients still reported ≥ 50% pain relief. Patients with classical and idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia reported a higher mean pain relief compared with the whole patient group.