There is now new hope on the horizon for trigeminal neuralgia patients as researchers have found that Gamma Knife Stereotactic Radiosurgery (GKRS) is an effective way to deal with the pain caused by the condition.
Researchers at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical found that the GKRS technique relived pain to a considerable degree in a study of 400 patients who underwent the procedure at the center. The comprehensive findings of this study are to be presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) meeting in Denver. "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 and lead researcher in the current study. GKRS is a non-invasive and an outpatient procedure which accomplishes the task of reducing pain by directing 201 narrow "pencil beams" of radioactive cobalt-60 into the affected area of the trigeminal nerve. Almost 90 percent of the patients reported significant reduction of pain after the procedure, while one-third reported that they experienced facial numbness. However, these patients said that the numbness was more tolerable than the pain.
Trigeminal neuralgia is an intensely painful condition that affects the fifth cranial nerve. This nerve is a major nerve of the face and transmits sensory as well as motor impulses from the area. The neuralgia also called tic douloureaux is triggered by touching some areas on the face called as 'trigger zones' such as the side of the face of the nose or even while brushing. Until now, the best way of treating the condition was sectioning the nerve, which was a risky procedure.