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Papers: 19 Mar 2022 - 25 Mar 2022

Human Studies

2022 Mar 23


Trigeminal microvascular decompression for short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks.


Lambru G, Lagrata S, Levy A, Cheema S, Davagnanam I, Rantell K, Kitchen N, Zrinzo L, Matharu M
Brain. 2022 Mar 23.
PMID: 35325067.


A significant proportion of patients with short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks (SUNHA) are refractory to medical treatments. Neuroimaging studies have suggested a role for ipsilateral trigeminal neurovascular conflict with morphological changes in the pathophysiology of this disorder. We present the outcome of an uncontrolled open-label prospective single centre study conducted between 2012 and 2020, to evaluate the efficacy and safety of trigeminal microvascular decompression in refractory chronic SUNHA with magnetic resonance imaging evidence of trigeminal neurovascular conflict ipsilateral to the pain side. Primary endpoint was the proportion of patients who achieved an "excellent response", defined as 90-100% weekly reduction in attack frequency, or "good response", defined as a reduction in weekly headache attack frequency between 75% and 89% at final follow-up, compared to baseline. These patients were defined as responders. The study group consisted of 47 patients of whom 31 had SUNCT and 16 had SUNA (25 females, mean age ± SD 55.2 years ± 14.8). Participants failed to respond or tolerate a mean of 8.1 (±2.7) preventive treatments pre-surgery. Magnetic resonance imaging of the trigeminal nerves (n = 47 patients, n = 50 symptomatic trigeminal nerves) demonstrated ipsilateral neurovascular conflict with morphological changes in 39/50 (78.0%) symptomatic nerves and without morphological changes in 11/50 (22.0%) symptomatic nerves. Post-operatively, 37/47 (78.7%) patients obtained either an excellent or a good response. Ten patients (21.3%, SUNCT = 7 and SUNA = 3) reported no post-operative improvement. The mean post-surgery follow-up was 57.4 ± 24.3 months (range 11-96 months). At final follow-up, 31 patients (66.0%) were excellent/good responders. Six patients experienced a recurrence of headache symptoms. There was no statistically significant difference between SUNCT and SUNA in the response to surgery (p = 0.463). Responders at the last follow-up were however more likely not to have interictal pain (77.42% vs 22.58%, p = 0.021) and to show morphological changes on the magnetic resonance imaging (78.38% vs 21.62%, p = 0.001). The latter outcome was confirmed in the Kaplan Meyer analysis, where patients with no morphological changes were more likely to relapse overtime compared to those with morphological changes (p = 0.0001). All but one patient who obtained an excellent response without relapse, discontinued their preventive medications. Twenty-two post-surgery adverse events occurred in 18 patients (46.8%) but no mortality or severe neurological deficit was seen. Trigeminal microvascular decompression may be a safe and effective long-term treatment for short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks patients with magnetic resonance evidence of neurovascular conflict with morphological changes.