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Gamma Knife Icon effectively treats painful trigeminal neuralgia without surgery

Here’s how this noninvasive procedure relieves agonizing facial pain.

Author: Robert Prosnitz, MD, is a radiation oncologist with Allentown Radiation Oncology Associates at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest.

I meet many patients with persistent trigeminal neuralgia (TN) who worry they may need invasive surgery to relieve their searing facial pain or otherwise live with it for life.

The positive news is most are good candidates for Gamma Knife® Icon™ treatment, which in most cases alleviates facial pain without the need for open surgery or other invasive treatments.

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic and debilitating condition that occurs mostly in people over age 50. The pain is usually triggered by blood vessels pressing on the 5th cranial (trigeminal) nerve as it exits the brain stem. This nerve is primarily responsible for transmitting sensations from the face to the brain.

With time the pressure leads to nerve damage, causing patients to suffer attacks of stabbing, burning or aching pain in various areas of their face. Gamma Knife Icon works by delivering a single shot of high-dose, laser-focused radiation that interrupts pain signals traveling from the trigeminal nerve back to the brain.

Not only have thousands of TN patients around the world found lasting relief through this noninvasive procedure, it can be a particularly good option if you are older or have other medical problems that make regular surgery risky. Young, healthy TN patients may want to consider microvascular decompression, a procedure that is slightly more effective. Its downside is that it requires opening the skull to relieve pressure on the trigeminal nerve.

Gamma Knife Icon also offers other advantages. For one, treatment is painless. When you arrive, our staff will fit you with a headframe to hold your head completely still so radiation hits only the target area without harming surrounding tissues.

Treatment typically takes 30 minutes, and you go home that day. Best of all, about 90 percent of TN patients either have no more facial pain after Gamma Knife treatment or can easily control it with medication.

Learn more about Gamma Knife in our informational guide > Download Gamma Knife guide.