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Can J Neurol Sci. 2003 Aug;30(3):220-3.

The treatment of trigeminal neuralgia in patients with multiple sclerosis using percutaneous radiofrequency rhizotomy.

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Surgical Centre for Movement Disorders, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.



Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) has a higher incidence among patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) than in the general population. This cohort of MS patients with TN presents a series of management challenges including poor tolerance of antineuralgic medications and occasional bilateral presentation. We analyzed our surgical series of MS patients presenting with TN who were treated with percutaneous radiofrequency rhizotomy to estimate the success, failure and recurrence rate of this procedure for those patients.


Surgical reports were retrospectively reviewed between the years 1996-2000. Patients with MS and TN who received a percutaneous rhizotomy during that time were included in the study and followed until the end of 2002. Data regarding age, sex, duration of MS and pain, response to medical treatment, pain distribution and surgical outcome were evaluated.


There were thirteen patients with MS and medically refractory TN treated with percutaneous radiofrequency rhizotomy. The average age at diagnosis for MS was 41 with TN beginning an average of eight years later. Following rhizotomy, complete pain relief without the need for any medication was achieved in 81% of the patients. The addition of medications resulted in pain control in the remaining patients. During a mean follow-up period of 52 months, there was a 50% recurrence rate. There were no complications related to the procedure and the associated facial numbness was well-tolerated.


Percutaneous radiofrequency rhizotomy is a safe and effective method for the treatment of TN in patients with MS. The unique susceptibility of this cohort to the side effects of antineuralgic medications may require early consideration of rhizotomy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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