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Director, Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery
Trigeminal neuralgia is a facial pain syndrome which often can be excruciating. It’s almost always on one side of the face and patients characteristically report a sharp stabbing or electrical type of pain that shoots usually into the lower part of the face. The pain is often difficult to control with medication and when medications either are no longer satisfactory or a patient can’t tolerate them very well, then we need to think about various options surgically to try to eliminate the pain.
The Gamma Knife is a technology designed to crossfire x-ray beams from all around the head to a target that’s identified inside the skull. In this case the target is the trigeminal nerve and the goal is to inactivate flow of pain information through the nerve by cross-firing the x-ray beams very, very precisely on a target that’s about the size of a green pea.
The Gamma Knife is a totally noninvasive technology. That means we don’t have to make any incisions in the patient, we can do this with local anesthetic, we can do this with the patient as an outpatient. And since trigeminal neuralgia is a condition that often affects the elderly or patients who have other medical risk factors for other types of surgery we need a technology like this that allows us to treat patients even if they are on anticoagulations, if they’ve had other types of surgery or have heart or lung problems for example. Since this is done totally noninvasively and we don’t have to make any incisions, we can get a benefit of pain relief over the course of a number of days or a few weeks without any kind of major surgical intervention.
The Gamma Knife has been used at UPMC since 1987 when we put in the first Gamma Knife in North America and since that time we’ve treated almost 12,700 patients and of those more than 1,200 patients are patients with trigeminal neuralgia, so our experience allows us to have the optimal results in terms of treatment of this condition.
For more information, please call (412) 647-7744, or visit the Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh.