Stereotactic Radiosurgery

A specialized type of radiation therapy called stereotactic radiation is one treatment option for facial pain. Stereotactic radiation is an advanced form of radiation treatment used for head and neck conditions. It uses three-dimensional, computerized imaging scans and many tiny, highly focused radiation beams to send energy directly to the area being treated. Treatment is usually completed in one session because stereotactic radiosurgery is so precise. During treatment, a frame may hold your head steady so the focused beams reach their target, but avoid other tissue nearby. Some stereotactic radiosurgery systems do not use a frame.

Learn about the radiation medicine team at OHSU

OHSU uses the Novalis Tx system for stereotactic radiosurgery. This is the most precise form of radiation treatment available. It is often used to treat head and neck tumors, but can also be used for facial pain.

Learn more about stereotactic radiosurgery and Novalis Tx

The procedure

Stereotactic radiosurgery is done on an outpatient basis (no overnight hospital stay). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to identify your trigeminal nerve. A single radiation beam is aimed at the appropriate target.

Over a period of time and as a result of exposure to the radiation, a lesion (area of damaged tissue) slowly forms in the nerve. This interrupts the nerve sending pain signals to your brain.

After the procedure

You may notice an increase in facial skin sensation with no apparent physical cause, including:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Prickling or tingling

Or you might experience a decrease in sensation.

Risks of stereotactic radiosurgery

This procedure is usually safe. However, it may take some time before your pain decreases following surgery. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the potential risks of your particular procedure.