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Papers of the Week

2022 Jan




Radioneuromodulation by Dual-Target Irradiation in Pain Crisis From Trigeminal Neuralgia.


Lovo EE, Moreira A, Barahona KC, Caceros V, Cruz C, Arias J
Cureus. 2022 Jan; 14(1):e20971.
PMID: 35004092.


Background Radioneuromodulation (RNM) can explain the immediate pain relief experienced by a subgroup of patients after stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) for trigeminal neuralgia (TN). In this study, our main objective was to demonstrate that a minimum of a 50% reduction in TN pain can be achieved consistently in under 72 hours by targeting the affected nerve, the contralateral centromedian nucleus, and parafascicular complex in patients experimenting a prolonged refractory pain crisis. Methodology We treated eight patients experiencing severe TN pain crisis in whom percutaneous procedures had failed or were unwanted with SRS with an intention to procure pain relief in under 72 hours. The affected trigeminal nerve was targeted using a 4-mm collimator with an 80 to 90-Gy dose; an additional target was defined in the mesial portions of the thalamus and irradiated using the 4-mm collimator with a 120 to 140-Gy dose. Results The median duration of TN was 60 months, the median duration of pain crisis was 10.7 weeks despite the best medical treatment, and the mean presenting visual analogue score (VAS) was 10 at the time of treatment. The median follow-up was 135 days (range, 65-210). Twenty-four hours after treatment, two (25%) patients had no pain (VAS 0), three (37.5%) had mild pain (VAS 1 to 3), and three (37.5%) had moderate pain (VAS 4 to 7). Forty-eight hours after treatment, all patients reported pain relief, seven (87.5%) reported >50%, and one (12.5%) patients reported 30% relief. The three-month median VAS score was 3 (range, 0 to 5). At the last follow-up, there were no adverse events to report. Conclusions Dual irradiation to the affected trigeminal nerve and contralateral mesial structures of the thalamus may provide fast pain relief for patients experiencing a prolonged pain crisis from TN, which veers away from the concept that the SRS pain relief effect is generally delayed and holds no place in the management of such patients. Although this is a small series with a limited follow-up duration, no adverse effects were noted. RNM can be defined as the capacity to alter neuronal activity through targeted delivery of a stimulus of radiation at a duration too brief to be explained by the development of a focal lesion. The immediate pain relief and its habitual oscillatory nature of lesser pain recurrence in most patients until enough time elapses for pain stabilization clinically demonstrates that the pain circuitry is altered and remains functional, thus accomplishing a neuromodulation effect even at the face of an apparent doses suspected to be ablative. Further research is needed to understand if this clinical effect is achieved with a suspected sub-ablative dose.