Neuromodulation : Journal of the International Neuromodulation Society
2022 Jun 7;S1094-7159(22)00649-3.
doi: 10.1016/j.neurom.2022.03.012.
Online ahead of print.

Anne BalossierAnne DonnetJean RégisAurélie Leplus Michel Lantéri-MinetDenys Fontaine


Objectives: Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a severe, debilitating pain condition causing physical and emotional distress. Although the management of TN is well codified with medical and then surgical treatments, 15% to 30% of patients will experience intractable pain. Neuromodulation techniques have been scarcely used for refractory TN, with only small case series and short-term follow-up.

Materials and methods: We conducted a retrospective study of patients treated with occipital nerve stimulation (ONS) for medically and surgically resistant TN without painful trigeminal neuropathy. The effectiveness of the ONS was evaluated using the Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) pain score and the pain relief (0%-100%) at best and at last follow-up.

Results: Seven patients who have refractory TN were included. The mean age at ONS was 49 years. The mean pain duration was 8.6 years. The mean number of medical and surgical treatments before ONS was six and five, respectively. A percutaneous trial was performed in five of seven patients; all responded (pain relief > 40%), and four of five patients experienced pain recurrence after explantation. Eventually, six patients had a permanent ONS implantation. The average BNI pain score before implantation was V. The mean follow-up after implantation was 59 months. All patients reported an improvement after implantation. The average BNI score and mean pain relief at best were IIIa and 86.7%, respectively. At last follow-up, the average BNI score and mean pain relief were IIIa and 58.0%, respectively, with three patients experiencing pain recurrence. Adverse events were reported for four patients who required surgical revision for lead breakage (1), erosion (1), migration (1), or hardware-related discomfort (1). One patient finally underwent explantation because of infection.

Conclusions: Although ONS is not validated in this indication, these results suggest that it can induce an improvement in TN recurring after several surgical treatments, and the benefit of the stimulation can be sustained in the long term.

Clinical trial registration: The registration number for the study is NCT01842763.

Keywords: Neuromodulation; occipital nerve stimulation; pain; surgery; trigeminal neuralgia.

Occipital Nerve Stimulation for Recurrent Trigeminal Neuralgia Without Occipital Pain