Unanticipated complication of percutaneous radiofrequency trigeminal rhizotomy rhinorrhea: Report of three cases and a cadaver study

Hasan Caglar Ugur, Ali Savas, Alaittin Elhan, Yücel Kanpolat, Farhad Limonadi, Kim J. Burchiel, L. Dade Lunsford, Björn A. Meyerson, Oren Sagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE AND IMPORTANCE: Several neurosurgical procedures have been developed for the treatment of idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia: vascular decompression of the trigeminal root in the brainstem, percutaneous trigeminal ganglion procedures, and external beam radiosurgery. Percutaneous radiofrequency electrodes target the trigeminal fibers in the gasserian ganglion through the foramen ovale. Several complications of radiofrequency trigeminal rhizotomy (RF-TR) have been described, including puncture of the carotid artery, the cavernous sinus, and the cranial nerves. This study presents a very rare complication of percutaneous RF-TR, rhinorrhea, and attempts to define its mechanism. CLINICAL PRESENTATION: Of 2375 patients with idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia who underwent 2958 percutaneous RF-TR procedures, 3 developed subsequent rhinorrhea, which resolved spontaneously in 2 to 3 days. TECHNIQUE: Two formalin-fixed cadavers were dissected to demonstrate the relationship between the foramen ovale and the tuba auditiva and the mechanism of rhinorrhea. CONCLUSION: This article presents a very rare complication of RF-TR. Rhinorrhea and/or cerebrospinal fluid fistulae in the nasopharyngeal cavity are benign complications of RF-TR that result from puncturing both the membranous portion of the tuba auditiva (eustachian tube) and Meckel's cave with the rhizotomy needle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1522-1526
Number of pages5
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004



  • Anatomy
  • Complication
  • Radiofrequency rhizotomy
  • Rhinorrhea
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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