Stereotactic Dorsolateral Irradiation of Spinal Nerve Roots: A Novel Technique for the Treatment of Spasticity and Pain

Pantaleo Romanelli, Giancarlo Beltramo
Curēus 2020 May 27, 12 (5): e8323
32617202
Selective dorsal rhizotomy is an established surgical treatment to improve the neurological and functional status of children with spastic cerebral palsy and adults with spasticity and pain caused by a variety of brain and spinal injuries. This procedure requires a dorsolumbar laminectomy to expose the appropriate dorsal rootlets, which are sectioned according to the presence of sustained electromiographic discharges. Image-guided robotic radiosurgery targeting the intracisternal sensory root of the trigeminal nerve has been described as a safe and effective non-invasive treatment for trigeminal neuralgia, a paroxystic pain disorder which often responds poorly to medical therapy. Image-guided radiosurgery requires no frame placement and can treat brain or spinal targets with submillimetric precision. This technique can be used to treat cervical or lumbar dorsal roots. A 44-year-old patient with von Hippel-Lindau disease developed severe spastic tetraparesis following multiple brain and spinal procedures. Spasticity and related pain mostly affected the right leg, with sustained electromiographic discharges originating from the right L4 nerve root. Response to medical therapy with baclofen and cannabinoids was poor. Due to geographical and logistical issues, the patient declined the placement of an intrathecal baclofen pump. Considering the poor general condition of the patient and his decision to avoid invasive procedures, a novel treatment option was offered to provide relief from spasticity and pain: stereotactic image-guided irradiation delivered to the sensory root. The patient underwent a right intraforaminal dorsolateral L4 root stereotactic irradiation with a delivered dose of 45 Gy prescribed to the 82% isodose. The treatment was well tolerated, without side effects. Resolution of spasticity and related pain in the right leg was found six months after the procedure. A marked reduction of spasticity and pain was also evident in the contralateral leg. These improvements have been stable over the last 18 months. So far, two additional patients underwent stereotactic dorsolateral spinal root irradiation (one delivered to a cervical, the other to a lumbar), with similar positive outcomes. These preliminary results suggest that spinal root stereotactic image-guided irradiation, a novel treatment option in the neurosurgical armamentarium, is a safe and effective procedure and deserves further investigation.

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