Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e32745. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032745. Epub 2012 Mar 6.

Tractography delineates microstructural changes in the trigeminal nerve after focal radiosurgery for trigeminal neuralgia.

Author information

Division of Neurosurgery, Toronto Western Hospital and University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Focal radiosurgery is a common treatment modality for trigeminal neuralgia (TN), a neuropathic facial pain condition. Assessment of treatment effectiveness is primarily clinical, given the paucity of investigational tools to assess trigeminal nerve changes. Since diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) provides information on white matter microstructure, we explored the feasibility of trigeminal nerve tractography and assessment of DTI parameters to study microstructural changes after treatment. We hypothesized that trigeminal tractography provides more information than 2D-MR imaging, allowing detection of unique, focal changes in the target area after radiosurgery. Changes in specific diffusivities may provide insight into the mechanism of action of radiosurgery on the trigeminal nerve.


Five TN patients (4 females, 1 male, average age 67 years) treated with Gamma Knife radiosurgery, 80 Gy/100% isodose line underwent 3Tesla MR trigeminal nerve tractography before and sequentially up to fourteen months after treatment. Fractional anisotropy (FA), radial (RD) and axial (AD) diffusivities were calculated for the radiosurgical target area defined as the region-of-interest. Areas outside target and the contralateral nerve served as controls.


Trigeminal tractography accurately detected the radiosurgical target. Radiosurgery resulted in 47% drop in FA values at the target with no significant change in FA outside the target, demonstrating highly focal changes after treatment. RD but not AD changed markedly, suggesting that radiosurgery primarily affects myelin. Tractography was more sensitive than conventional gadolinium-enhanced post-treatment MR, since FA changes were detected regardless of trigeminal nerve enhancement. In subjects with long term follow-up, recovery of FA/RD correlated with pain recurrence.


DTI parameters accurately detect the effects of focal radiosurgery on the trigeminal nerve, serving as an in vivo imaging tool to study TN. This study is a proof of principle for further assessment of DTI parameters to understand the pathophysiology of TN and treatment effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center