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What is Gamma Knife treatment for trigeminal neuralgia?

Gamma knife treatment for trigeminal neuralgia, or stereotactic radio surgery, involves a highly focused, almost laser-like beam of radiation therapy that is directed in an extremely accurate way to the nerve coming out of the brain. The size of that nerve really is only about a quarter of an inch -- it’s very small, smaller than a finger, but it’s possible to aim the radiation therapy with that degree of precision because we can see these structures on an MRI scan and treat it with focused radiation therapy.

The gamma knife unit is one that has multiple sources of radiation that are all targeted at one single spot on the nerve. The patient goes into the unit, the area of the nerve is targeted, and it’s radiated up to a significant dose to cause a partial radiation injury to the nerve. This does two things. First, it creates a certain degree of a deficit in sensation, numbness in the areas of the nerve. A small area on the face generally becomes numb in a significant proportion of patients. Second, the radiation effect on the nerve stimulates a healing process in the nerve that over time will restore some of the normal insulation and relieve the pain. This kind of treatment, in contrast to the microvascular decompression (MVD) surgery, doesn’t generally result in immediate relief of pain. It generally takes three or four weeks and sometimes longer before the radiation therapy takes effect.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.