Reoperation for recurrent trigeminal neuralgia after microvascular decompression

J J Liao, W C Cheng, C N Chang, J T Yang, K C Wei, Y H Hsu, T K Lin
Surgical Neurology 1997, 47 (6): 562-8; discussion 568-70

BACKGROUND: Microvascular decompression (MVD) is an effective technique for those who have trigeminal neuralgia (TN) but cannot tolerate, or show no response to medicine. Though the initial success rate is high, some patients may develop severe recurrent neuralgia, especially after a longer period of follow-up. The efficacy of reoperation needs to be evaluated. To know the possible risk factors of recurrence after initial MVD is mandatory to the management of recurrent TN.

METHODS: Among the 80 cases of TN treated with MVD, five cases showed severe recurrent symptoms within a follow-up period from 9 months-4 years. The symptoms recurred on the same side of the face, and were unresponsive to medical treatment. Brain computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may reveal the etiology of recurrence. Repeat decompression of the trigeminal nerve was the main goal of reoperation, which was done via a suboccipital approach.

RESULTS: Over the past 17 years, 80 MVDs for TN have been performed at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. There were five cases of serious postoperative recurrence, which could not be relieved by medicine. Recurrence occurred 1 day-12 months after the initial surgery. Three cases were due to vascular compression, while two were caused by the local effect of Teflon felt. Reoperation produced complete remission in four patients, and partial remission in one.

CONCLUSIONS: An increasing number of patients may experience severe recurrent TN after initial MVD during a long period of follow-up. Reoperation is safe and beneficial for these patients, but the results are dependent on the etiology of the recurrence. Further vascular compression of the trigeminal nerve can be relieved by MVD. Otherwise, in cases of severe adhesion caused by Teflon, complete microneural lysis can achieve satisfactory results.

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