CyberKnife for Trigeminal Neuralgia

CyberKnife® is extremely useful as both an alternative to open surgery for brain tumors, as well as the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. The results have been excellent. We have had many instances of complete tumor eradication, and over 80 percent success in the relief of trigeminal neuralgia pain.”  

- Stephen Calderon, M.D., Neurosurgeon, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center

“Trigeminal Neuralgia, also known as Tic Douloureux, is a painful medical disorder, in which a person suffers repeated episodes of severe facial pain. The pain is intense, and can be triggered by touching specific skin areas, known as trigger points. Other activities such as swallowing, brushing the teeth, speaking, eating, or cold air can precipitate the pain.

Treatment with medication is the best initial treatment option for someone diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia. Commonly used medications include carbamazepine (Tegretol), Trileptal, and Lyrica. For most patients, these medications are generally effective, however, their effectiveness often diminishes over time. As a result, doses may need to be gradually increased, or additional medications added. Sometimes the pain is not controlled, or side effects of grogginess or inability to concentrate develop at the higher doses, causing patients to seek alternative treatments.

Treating Trigeminal Neuralgia with CyberKnife® Radiosurgery

trigeminal neuralgiaOne of the best alternative treatments for trigeminal neuralgia for those patients who cannot get relief from medications, or who are unable to tolerate the drugs, is CyberKnife stereotactic radiosurgery. The CyberKnife delivers one single treatment of a precise shot of radiation to the nerve root that causes the pain. There are no incisions, nor are anesthetics necessary. Unlike other radiosurgery machines, such as the Gamma Knife, no headrings or cages need to be screwed to the skull. Therefore, a patient of almost any age or medical condition can undergo this treatment, as long as they are able to hold still in a comfortable position on a treatment table.

Most patients experience pain relief within the first month. Some may become pain-free within a few days, while in others the pain relief may take up to several months. The most common complication is numbness of part or all of the side of the face. This occurs in 10-15% of patients, and may develop up to 1-2 years later.