We wished to assess the present condition of patients previously treated with a neurosurgical procedure or procedures for trigeminal neuralgia (TN) in 383 patients treated between 1976 and 1991, for TN at the Department of Neurosurgery, Hvidovre Hospital. Of these, 67 were lost to follow-up. The latest surgical intervention performed was radiofrequency coagulation (RFC) (64%), neurectomy (18%), alcohol block (16%), trigeminal tractotomy (1%), and microvascular decompression (1%); 72% of patients underwent only one neurosurgical procedure.
Questionnaires were sent to 316 patients treated neurosurgically for TN during the 16-year period; 288 (91%) patients responded. The follow-up period varied from 1 to 16 years (mean 8 years). Outcome measures were effect of RFC, neurectomy, and alcohol block; present pain conditions; and sequelae.
After RFC, neurectomy, and alcohol block, 83, 51, and 42% of patients, respectively, experienced a pain-free postoperative period; 49, 78, and 84% of these patients had recurrence of pain. At present, 49, 17, and 18% are pain-free and 33, 21, and 36% now have less pain than they did preoperatively. Temporary or permanent analgesics for facial pain were required in 41, 72, and 69% of the patients. Sequelae were described by 65, 57, and 49% of the patients. The four most common sequelae were hypoesthesia, paresthesia, eye complaints, and dysesthesia.
If relevant pharmacotherapy has been tried without benefit, RFC may still be considered as a treatment for TN.