When medications and other types of treatment don’t provide relief for the debilitating pain of trigeminal neuralgia, Gamma Knife treatment is an effective treatment option. During Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery, surgeons disrupt the pain signals to the brain by targeting highly focused beams of radiation precisely at the trigeminal nerve root. Despite its name, Gamma Knife treatment is not a surgical procedure and is completely noninvasive. Gamma Knife treatment provides effective pain relief for 80 to 96 percent of trigeminal neuralgia patients, even five years after the procedure. It also can be repeated.
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Gamma Knife surgery — which actually isn't surgery, but a finely targeted delivery of radiation beams — was developed specifically to treat brain disorders and has been used successfully hundreds of thousands of times since it was first introduced in 1967. Sometimes referred to as stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), Gamma Knife is a noninvasive method for treating trigeminal neuralgia. It is the delivery of a single, high dose of irradiation to a small and critically located target through the skull. Gamma Knife treatment for trigeminal neuralgia is preferred for its extreme accuracy, efficiency, and outstanding therapeutic response. Because there is no incision, the recovery time, potential for infection, and bleeding risk are all substantially reduced, making it the best option for patients with many types of brain disorders. In addition, Gamma Knife’s precise delivery means that only the targeted area of the brain receives radiation, while surrounding healthy tissue remains intact.
Today, Gamma Knife treatment is performed in hundreds of leading hospitals and clinics around the world. Around 50,000 patients undergo Gamma Knife surgery every year, and this unique procedure has an impressive scientific track record with thousands of peer-reviewed articles published in leading medical journals. No other noninvasive treatment method in this field has greater clinical acceptance.
In Gamma Knife radiosurgery, a neurosurgeon uses computer imagery to direct a precisely focused beam of high-dose radiation to the root of the trigeminal nerve. This causes a lesion to form on the nerve, which eventually disrupts the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Pain relief occurs gradually.
Research indicates that as many as 96 percent of trigeminal neuralgia patients treated with Gamma Knife radiosurgery experience pain relief within a few weeks of the procedure. If pain recurs, the procedure can be repeated.
Because radiosurgery is the least invasive procedure for trigeminal neuralgia, it is often the best treatment option for patients with medical conditions that make traditional surgery risky.
Gamma Knife treatment for trigeminal neuralgia stops pain in most patients, usually within 10 days. It can be used initially after medications have failed to relieve the pain, or Gamma Knife can be used to treat trigeminal neuralgia after other procedures have been tried. If you are experiencing the debilitating pain of trigeminal neuralgia, you should consider Gamma Knife surgery as a treatment option. To learn more about the research into Gamma Knife’s effectiveness, you can link to these relevant research studies:
Régis, J.; Tuleasca, C.; Resseguier N.; Carron, R.; Donnet, A.; Gaudart, J.; Levivier, M. Long-term safety and efficacy of Gamma Knife surgery in classical trigeminal neuralgia: A 497-patient historical cohort study. Journal of Neurosurgery. April 2016.
Verheul, J.B.; Hanssens, P.E.; Lie, S.T.; Leenstra, S.; Piersma, H.; Beute, G.N. Gamma Knife surgery for trigeminal neuralgia: A review of 450 consecutive cases. Journal of Neurosurgery. December 2010.
Elaimy, A.L.; Lamm, A.F.; Demakas, J.J.; Mackay, A.R.; Lamoreaux, W.T.; Fairbanks, R.K.; Pfeffer, R.D.; Cooke, B.S.; Peressini, B.J.; Lee, C.M. Gamma Knife radiosurgery for typical trigeminal neuralgia: An institutional review of 108 patients. Surgical Neurology International. July 2013.
Tuleasca, C.; Carron, R.; Ressequier, N.; Donnet, A.; Roussel, P.; Gaudart, J.; Levivier, M.; Regis, J. Patterns of pain-free response in 497 cases of classic trigeminal neuralgia treated with Gamma Knife surgery and followed up for least 1 year. Journal of Neurosurgery. December 2012.
Approximately 80 to 96 percent of trigeminal neuralgia patients reported adequate pain relief after Gamma Knife treatment, and still five years later. For patients who did not get adequate pain relief and repeated the procedure, 89 percent reported adequate pain relief. Success rates for patients with multiple sclerosis also were high compared to other treatments, providing relief to more than half of all patients.
Benefits of Gamma Knife treatment for trigeminal neuralgia include:
Pain relief may take a week or, in about one-third of patients, up to a month after Gamma Knife treatment for trigeminal neuralgia. The procedure has a slightly lower success rate than other types of treatment for trigeminal neuralgia. There also is about a 20 percent chance of recurrence, which is mostly resolved after a repeat treatment.
Gamma Knife surgery has long been recognized as the only option for many patients who, for health reasons, may not be candidates for conventional surgery. Most trigeminal neuralgia patients are good candidates, as no general anesthesia is required. Gamma Knife treatment for trigeminal neuralgia also is a good option for patients who want a nonsurgical treatment with little to no recovery time or side effects. The procedure also is particularly appropriate for patients who want to minimize risk of facial numbness or cannot tolerate general anesthesia.
Because trigeminal neuralgia is a progressive condition, many patients find that medications that were initially effective eventually stop working. Others find that side effects of medications are not tolerable. For those patients, stereotactic radiosurgery with Gamma Knife is a preferred treatment option.
At Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center, our team of specialists will carefully review your medical history and discuss treatment options with you to determine whether you are a good candidate for a Gamma Knife procedure.
Most patients will be able to meet with a Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife neurosurgeon within two to three weeks of contacting our office. After an initial consultation, patients who are candidates for trigeminal neuralgia treatment with Gamma Knife will undergo pre-procedure imaging to determine precisely where the radiation dose will be directed. Patients are asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight the day before the Gamma Knife treatment.
During the procedure, which typically takes less than an hour:
Following Gamma Knife treatment, the head frame will be removed and dressing may be applied. The patient will then be transported to the hospital for a few hours of observation. During that time, the local anesthetic will wear off and the patient may experience a headache. We recommend the patient receive medication for headache shortly after arriving to the hospital floor. Prior to discharge, we want to make sure that the patient is relatively comfortable and able to tolerate food without nausea.
Typically, the total hospital stay lasts approximately eight to 10 hours. On occasion and based on the physician’s orders, a patient may be admitted for an overnight stay.
Most patients are able to resume normal activities almost immediately and return to work the next day. Your physician will determine how many follow-up visits are needed, based on your particular situation.
The Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center is the region’s most experienced center for stereotactic radiosurgery. Since performing the region’s first-ever Gamma Knife procedure in 1993, Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center has continued to be the Rocky Mountain’s leader, providing Gamma Knife treatment for trigeminal neuralgia and more than 30 other types of brain conditions. More than 5,300 patients have benefited from treatment at Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center.
Our team has earned a reputation as experienced leaders in employing Gamma Knife technology for the treatment of 30 neurological disorders, including benign meningiomas and cancerous tumors, especially metastatic melanoma. In addition, our neurosurgeons are nationally recognized for expertise in treating the facial pain known as trigeminal neuralgia.
Radiosurgery with Gamma Knife is covered by most insurance plans. We can help you determine your coverage and get preauthorization.
To schedule an appointment to talk with a Rocky Mountain Gamma Knife Center nurse or for more information, fill out our online form to select a time or call 303-366-0099.
Fill out this form to request a phone consultation with one of our nurse specialists to discuss your situation and whether you are a candidate for treatment.