Safety of microvascular decompression for trigeminal neuralgia in the elderly. Clinical article

Division of Neurosurgery, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA.
Journal of Neurosurgery (Impact Factor: 3.74). 05/2011; 115(2):202-9. DOI: 10.3171/2011.4.JNS101924
Source: PubMed


Microvascular decompression (MVD) offers an effective and durable treatment for patients suffering from trigeminal neuralgia (TN). Because the disorder has a tendency to occur in older persons, the risks of surgical treatment in the elderly have been a topic of recent interest. To date, evidence derived from several small retrospective and a single prospective case series has suggested that age does not increase the complication rate associated with surgery. Using a large national database, the authors aimed to study the impact of age on in-hospital complications following MVD for TN.
Using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) for the 10-year period from 1999 to 2008, the authors selected all patients who underwent MVD for TN. The primary outcome of interest was the in-hospital mortality rate. Secondary outcomes of interest were cardiac, pulmonary, thromboembolic, cerebrovascular, and wound complications as well as the duration of hospital stay, total hospital charges, and discharge location. An elderly cohort of patients was first defined as those 65 years of age and older and then redefined as those 75 years and older.
A total of 3273 patients who underwent MVD for TN were identified, having a median age of 57 years. Within this sample, 31.5% were 65 years and older and 10.7% were 75 years and older. The in-hospital mortality rate was 0.68% for patients 65 years or older (p = 0.0087) and 1.16% for those 75 years or older (p = 0.0026). In patients younger than 65 years, the in-hospital mortality rate was 0.13% (3 deaths among 2241 patients). As analyzed using the chi-square test (for both 65 and 75 years as the age cutoff) and the Pearson rank correlation coefficient, the risk of cardiac, pulmonary, thromboembolic, and cerebrovascular complications was higher in older patients (that is, those 65 and older and those 75 and older), but the risks of wound complications and CNS infection were not. The risk of any in-hospital complication occurring in a patient 65 years and older was 7.36% (p < 0.0001) and 10.0% in those 75 years and older (p < 0.0001). There was no difference in the total hospital charges associated with age. The duration of the hospital stay was longer in older patients, and the likelihood of discharge home was lower in older patients.
Microvascular decompression for TN in the elderly population remains a reasonable surgical option. However, based on data from a large national database, authors of the present study suggest that complications do tend to gradually increase in tandem with an advanced age. While age does not act as a risk factor in isolation, it may serve as a convenient surrogate for complication rates. The authors hope that this information can be of use in guiding older patients through decisions for the surgical treatment of TN.

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    • "The cause in such cases may be focal compression (and associated myelin loss) affecting a part of nerve but not recognized during surgery9). Because all of our cases showed compression intraoperatively, we may hypothesize that vascular compression of the trigeminal nerve, especially at the REZ, is the main etiological factor in primary TN8,20). "
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