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Neurosurgery. 2006 Dec;59(6):1252-7; discussion 1257.

Trigeminal nerve radiosurgical treatment in intractable chronic cluster headache: unexpected high toxicity.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Hôpital la Timone, Marseille, France.



We have previously reported short-term results of a prospective open trial designed to evaluate trigeminal nerve radiosurgical treatment in intractable chronic cluster headache (CCH). Medium- and long-term results have not yet been reported.


Ten patients presenting with a severe and drug-resistant CCH were enrolled (nine men, one woman). The radiosurgical treatment was performed according to the technique usually used for trigeminal neuralgia in our department. A single 4-mm shot was positioned at the level of the cisternal portion of the trigeminal nerve. The median distance between the center of the shot and the emergence of the nerve was 9.35 mm (range, 7.5-13.3 mm). The median of this maximum dose to the brainstem was 8.0 Gy (range, 4.0-11.1 Gy). Mean age was 49.8 years (range, 32-77 yr). Mean duration of the CCH was 9 years (range, 2-33 yr). The mean follow-up period was 36.3 months (range, 24-48 mo).


Two patients had complete relief of CCH. One patient had a good result with evolution in an episodic form. Seven patients had no improvement. Nine patients developed a new trigeminal nerve disturbance: three developed paresthesia with no hypoesthesia and six developed hypoesthesia, including two patients with deafferentation pain. Only one patient had neither paresthesia nor hypoesthesia.


We confirmed, with medium- and long-term evaluation, the high rate of toxicity and failure of the technique. The high toxicity, despite a methodology identical to the one used in trigeminal neuralgia, leads us to suspect an underlying specificity of the nerve in CCH. We do not recommend radiosurgery for treatment of intractable CCH.

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