Salvage C2 ganglionectomy after C2 nerve root decompression provides similar pain relief as a single surgical procedure for intractable occipital neuralgia

Jared M Pisapia, Deb A Bhowmick, Roger E Farber, Eric L Zager
World Neurosurgery 2012, 77 (2): 362-9

OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of C2 nerve root decompression and C2 dorsal root ganglionectomy for intractable occipital neuralgia (ON) and C2 ganglionectomy after pain recurrence following initial decompression.

METHODS: A retrospective review was performed of the medical records of patients undergoing surgery for ON. Pain relief at the time of the most recent follow-up was rated as excellent (headache relieved), good (headache improved), or poor (headache unchanged or worse). Telephone contact supplemented chart review, and patients rated their preoperative and postoperative pain on a 10-point numeric scale. Patient satisfaction and disability were also examined.

RESULTS: Of 43 patients, 29 were available for follow-up after C2 nerve root decompression (n = 11), C2 dorsal root ganglionectomy (n = 10), or decompression followed by ganglionectomy (n = 8). Overall, 19 of 29 patients (66%) experienced a good or excellent outcome at most recent follow-up. Among the 19 patients who completed the telephone questionnaire (mean follow-up 5.6 years), patients undergoing decompression, ganglionectomy, or decompression followed by ganglionectomy experienced similar outcomes, with mean pain reduction ratings of 5 ± 4.0, 4.5 ± 4.1, and 5.7 ± 3.5. Of 19 telephone responders, 13 (68%) rated overall operative results as very good or satisfactory.

CONCLUSIONS: In the third largest series of surgical intervention for ON, most patients experienced favorable postoperative pain relief. For patients with pain recurrence after C2 decompression, salvage C2 ganglionectomy is a viable surgical option and should be offered with the potential for complete pain relief and improved quality of life (QOL).

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