The trigeminal nerve is one of the twelve pairs of cranial nerves that originate at the base of the brain. The nerve is subdivided into three branches (giving the name trigeminal), and it is these that transmit sensory stimuli from the lower, middle and upper part of the face, as well as from the mouth cavity to the brain. What is trigeminal neuralgia?
It is a pain caused by stimulation of the trigeminal nerve. The attacks generally last a short while and can occur several times throughout the day. In addition, the pain can be triggered by external factors, such as contact of a razor with the cheek when the patient is shaving, putting on make-up, washing the face or brushing teeth. Again the attack can be triggered when the patient eats, talks or when they are exposed to the wind.
Typically there is an area of the face or gums, which the patient avoids touching in order not to trigger the painful pain. Only in rare cases the symptoms of trigeminal nerve occur at night, when the patient is sleeping.
Trigeminal neuralgia is one of the most painful conditions known and surgery is often necessary.
Dr. M R Sivakumar is the best neurosurgeon in Chennai. He has over 33 years of experience in the field and is considered a pioneer. Stereotactic radiosurgery costs in India starts from USD 6400. The operation does not require any hospital stay.
The latest and least invasive technique to treat trigeminal neuralgia is radiosurgery.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery, also called stereotactic radiosurgery, is a very accurate form of radiotherapy. Though it is called surgery, a Gamma Knife procedure does not involve real surgery, nor is the Gamma Knife actually a knife.
This technique uses gamma ray beams, aimed at treating tiny lesions, usually in the brain. The gamma radiation is focused on the lesion to be treated and provides giving a very high dose of radiation without any surgical incision.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is called surgery because it allows a result similar to an actual surgical procedure through a single radiotherapy treatment session. The radiation beams are very precisely centered on the tumor, lesions or other areas to be treated with minimal effect on surrounding healthy brain tissue.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is most often used to treat tumors and other brain injuries. It is also used for the treatment of certain neurological diseases, such as trigeminal neuralgia.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery can also be used successfully in those situations where the brain injury cannot be reached by traditional craniotomy surgery. It can be used in those patients whose health status is such that they cannot tolerate a surgical procedure, such as a craniotomy, for the treatment of the illness.
Since the healing effects of a Gamma Knife procedure occur slowly over time, it is not used in those patients who require more immediate treatment.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Procedure
Radiosurgery works in the same way as other types of radiotherapy – radiation damages or destroys the DNA of cells, eradicating the possibility of lesions from growing.
A gamma ray affects the origin of the trigeminal nerve with very high precision, causing tiny lesions in the nerve fibers responsible for transmitting pain to be destroyed. The machinery most used for this type of intervention is a miniaturized particle accelerator mounted on a mobile robotic arm, controlled by very sophisticated software, able to orient itself in all directions. The intervention is guided by processing the PET and magnetic resonance images acquired before the treatment. With a single application in an outpatient setting, pain is eliminated in 60-70% of cases. The operation, substantially without side effects, lasts about an hour.
It takes a few days to a few weeks for the treatment to take effect. This type of surgery is the result of teamwork between a neurosurgeon and an experienced radiotherapist.
Although it sounds high tech and futuristic, the procedure is very safe and has no side effects.