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Long-term Results of Radiofrequency Rhizotomy in the Treatment of Cluster Headache

Authors

  • Jamal M Taha MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. From the Department of Neurosurgery, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Cincinnati, Ohio.and
      Dr. Jamal M. Taha, Editorial Office, Department of Neurosurgery,University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 231 Bethesda Avenue, PO Box 670515, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0515.
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  • John M Tew Jr MD

    1. From the Department of Neurosurgery, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Cincinnati, Ohio.and
    2. Mayfield Neurological Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio.
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Dr. Jamal M. Taha, Editorial Office, Department of Neurosurgery,University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 231 Bethesda Avenue, PO Box 670515, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0515.

Abstract

Although the primary treatment of chronic cluster headache is medical, surgical treatment is sometimes used. The authors reviewed the charts of seven patients (ages 36 to 68 years) with chronic cluster headache to identify who responded best to percutaneous stereotactic radiofrequency rhizotomy after medical treatment failed. All patients had immediate pain relief after surgery. At follow-up (median 5 years, range 2 to 20 years), two patients remained pain-free 7 and 20 years later (excellent results); three patients had mild pain recurrence that was well controlled on medications (good results) 6 to 12 months after surgery; and two patients had major pain recurrence 4 days and 2 months after surgery (poor results). Six patients had relief of vasomotor symptoms. One patient had transient diplopia and keratitis without permanent sequelae. Both patients with excellent results had pre-operative major pain around the eye; both patients with poor results had major pain around the temple, ear, and cheek; and the three patients with good results had pain equally severe in the eye, temple, and cheek. There was no association between patient age or sex, pain duration, preoperative response to lidocaine blockade, or previous surgery with pain relief. No differences occurred in pain relief between patients with dense hypalgesia and patients with analgesia. The authors conclude that (1) some patients with chronic cluster headache treated by percutaneous stereotactic radiofrequency rhizotomy achieve long-term pain relief, and (2) surgery on the trigeminovascular system alone may not cure the condition in patients with major pain around the temple, ear, and cheek.

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