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Gamma Knife Effective in Treating Trigeminal Neuralgia

WINSTON-SALEM – Research at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical has shown that Gamma Knife Stereotactic Radiosurgery (GKRS) is an effective treatment for trigeminal neuralgia, a common condition characterized by excruciating facial pain.

“This has proven to be a safe, effective treatment for trigeminal neuralgia patients, without the potential facial paralysis and long-term recovery experienced with conventional surgery,” said Volker Stieber, M.D., co-director of the Gamma Knife Program at Wake Forest Baptist.

Results of the study are being presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) meeting in Denver on Oct.19.

Led by principal investigator Stieber, the Gamma Knife team evaluated the outcomes of more than 400 patients who received GKRS for facial pain. GKRS is a non-invasive, outpatient treatment. The Gamma Knife unit aims 201 narrow “pencil beams” of radioactive cobalt-60 at the trigeminal nerve focusing precisely on the target and minimizing radiation effects to surrounding healthy tissues.

Ninety percent of patients with trigeminal neuralgia had significant pain relief within an average of four weeks. Approximately one-third of these patients did experience some degree of facial numbness, but 80 percent reported a significant improvement in their quality of life since the numbness was much more tolerable than the facial pain.

Trigeminal neuralgia, also known as tic douloureaux, is characterized by electric shock-like pain in one or more of the three trigeminal nerve distributions in the face. Some common triggers of pain include eating, brushing teeth, talking and exposure to cold air.

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Contact: Jonnie Rohrer, 336-716-6972, jrohrer@wfubmc.edu; Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu, or Mark Wright, mwright@wfubmc.edu, 336-716-4587

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine 30th in primary care, 41st in research and 14th in geriatrics training among the nation's medical schools. It ranks 32nd in research funding by the National Institutes of Health. Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best Doctors in America.

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