Differentiation of arterial and venous neurovascular conflicts estimates the clinical outcome after microvascular decompression in trigeminal neuralgia

Sebastian Müller, Eya Khadhraoui, Ali Khanafer, Marios Psychogios, Veit Rohde, Levent Tanrikulu
BMC Neurology 2020 July 14, 20 (1): 279

BACKGROUND: Balanced Steady State Free Precession (b-SSFP) sequences and the newly developed Fast-Spin-Echo (FSE)-sequences enable an optimized visualization of neurovascular compression (NVC) in patients with trigeminal neuralgia (TN). Arterial conflicts are mostly associated with a favorable outcome of microvascular decompression (MVD) compared to venous conflicts. An additional Time-of-Flight (TOF) angiography provides the differentiation between offending arteries and veins and a precise counselling of the patient concerning postoperative pain relief. The goal of this study was to analyze the reliability and impact of the combination of highly-resoluted MRI techniques on the correct prediction of the vessel type and the estimation of postoperative outcome of microvascular decompression (MVD).

METHODS: In total, 48 patients (m/f: 32/16) underwent MVD for TN. All the preoperative imaging data (T2: b-SFFP and FSE, MRA: TOF) were compared to the intraoperative microsurgical findings during MVD. b-SFFP was available in 14 patients, FSE in 34 patients and an additional TOF sequence was available in 38 patients (9 times in combination with b-SSFP, 29 times in combination with FSE). The patients were categorized into four subgroups: 1) NVC negative, 2) venous NVC, 3) arterial NVC, 4) combined arterial and venous NVC. The preoperative MRI findings were compared to the intraoperative morphological findings. Postoperative pain relief was quantified by the Barrow Neurological Institute pain score.

RESULTS: Twenty-five purely arterial NVC, 9 purely venous NVC and 5 combined arterial and venous NVC were detected by MRI. In 9 cases NVC was absent on MRI. Overall, the MRI findings correctly predicted the intraoperative findings in 91.7% of the 48 patients. The percentage of correct prediction increased from 80 to 94.7%, when TOF angiography was adjoined.

CONCLUSION: The visualization of the trigeminal nerve using sequences such as b-SSFP or FSE in combination with TOF angiography enables an optimized delineation of arterial and venous neurovascular conflicts and may allow a more reliable differentiation between veins and arteries, resulting in superior prediction of postoperative pain relief compared to T2 imaging data alone.

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