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Stereotactic radiation therapy for trigeminal neuralgia

Stereotactic radiation therapy for trigeminal neuralgia

Knowing what to expect during and after treatment can help you prepare and reduce any anxiety that you may be feeling. The following information has been put together to help you understand your radiation therapy treatment, and we hope to reduce any concerns you have. It does not replace discussion with your doctor, or the advice of your care team specific to your needs.


What is stereotactic radiation therapy?

It can also be used to treat vascular abnormalities and neurological disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia and tremor from Parkinson’s disease.

Stereotactic radiation therapy is a highly specialised, non-invasive form of radiation therapy which utilises state-of-the-art 3D technology. Multiple high energy x-rays are delivered from many different angles precisely focusing on the reactive fibres of the trigeminal nerve within the brain. The aim of this treatment is to inactivate or damage the reactive fibres of the trigeminal nerve, while minimising the impact on the surrounding normal brain tissue.

Stereotactic radiation therapy can be used with the aim to provide lasting pain relief for trigeminal neuralgia by stopping the transmission of pain signals.

The treatment of trigeminal neuralgia is completed in one session and this is known as stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS).

SRS may be used together with other types of treatment, such as medication, surgery or percutaneous (through the skin) procedures. SRS is commonly used if medication cannot adequately control symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia.

Pain relief may take 6-12 weeks to occur and it is important to continue with regular medication during this time.

What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal or fifth cranial nerve. Trigeminal neuralgia is a nerve disorder that causes abrupt, searing or electric-shock-like facial pains. Most commonly, the pain involves the lower face and jaw, but symptoms can also appear near the nose, ears, eyes or lips. The pain occurs because of a change in neurological structure or function caused by irritation or damage of a nerve.

Medications

Medication specifically prescribed for trigeminal neuralgia should not be adjusted without first consulting with your neurologist or radiation oncologist.

You may need to remain on full doses of medication for a few months after treatment.

Prescriptions and vitamins

Continue to take any prescribed medications. Please inform your radiation therapy nurse if you are taking vitamins, antioxidants or herbal supplements, or if you start any new medications during your treatment. You may need to remain on full doses of medication for a few months after treatment.

If you have any questions regarding medications please discuss this with your radiation oncologist or nurse. 

What are the possible short-term side effects?

Stereotactic radiation therapy has relatively few side effects. Everyone is different and side effects will vary for everyone. Side effects are manageable; please discuss any changes or new symptoms with your nurse.

Stereotactic radiation therapy does not make you radioactive and it is safe to be around others, including children and pregnant women during and after your treatment. There is no restriction on physical contact with others.

We encourage you to talk to us about any side effects that worry you. We are here to help you find ways to manage any side effects that you experience.

Pain flare

Radiation therapy can cause a temporary increase in pain in area being treatment. Let us know as soon as possible if you experience a pain flare as we can help to control this with the use of additional breakthrough analgesia. If required, your doctor will prescribe further pain relief.

Facial numbness or tingling

Facial sensations, such as numbness or tingling, can occur, or increase in intensity if already experienced. On rare occasions the face may become numb and the pain may persist. If facial numbness does occur regular eye check-ups are required as this can lead to corneal damage.

Fatigue

You may feel tired or lack energy for daily activities during your treatment. You may become increasingly tired as you progress towards the end of your treatment. This is a normal reaction to the radiation therapy and each person is affected in varying degrees. Fatigue usually eases a few weeks after treatment finishes. Finding a balance between rest and activity will help you manage.

Your radiation oncologist will talk to you about any possible long-term side effects related to your individual treatment.


Frequently asked questions

How will radiation therapy affect my day to day life?

You may continue your usual work and daily activities, but you may need to rest more than usual due to tiredness or fatigue during treatment. Unless otherwise advised, you can eat and drink normally. Alcohol consumption in moderation is permitted, and you can continue to take any prescribed medication

What happens after my treatment is finished?

Reviews and follow-up appointments will be discussed and organised by your care team prior to completing treatment.

When do the short-term side effects settle?

Radiation therapy treatment keeps working even after you have stopped coming in for regular treatment. This means symptoms may get a little worse before they get better. Generally, side effects will settle within four to six weeks of finishing your treatment.


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