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Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants
SJR: 0.332 SNIP: 0.491 CiteScore™: 0.89

ISSN Print: 1050-6934
ISSN Online: 1940-4379

Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants

DOI: 10.1615/JLongTermEffMedImplants.v16.i2.80
pages 185-192

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Richard Edlich
Legacy Verified Level I Shock Trauma Center Pediatrics and Adults, Legacy Emanual Hospital; and Plastic Surgery, Biomedical Engineering and Emergency Medicine, University of Virginia Health System, USA
Kathryne L. Winters
Website Manager and Information Specialist, Trauma Specialists, LLP, Legacy Emanuel Hospital, Portland, Oregon, 1917 NE 97th St. Vancouver WA 98665, USA
L. D. Britt
Chairman, Brickhouse Professor of Surgery. Department of General Surgery, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Hofheimer Hall, 825 Fairfax Avenue, Norfolk VA 235001, USA
William B. Long III
Trauma Specialists LLP, Legacy Verified Level I Shock Trauma Center for Pediatrics and Adults, Legacy Emmanuel Hospital Portland, OR, USA


Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is the most common facial neuralgia, and is considered to be one of the most painful conditions to affect patients. The rate of occurrence of TN in men and women is 2.5 and 5.7 per 100,000 per year respectively. TN is generally characterized by lancinating, unilateral, paroxysmal pain occurring in the distribution of the fifth cranial nerve. The diagnosis of TN is made clinically by excluding other possible causes of facial pain and is based on signs and symptoms from the patient history such as a trigger zone, typical unilateral lancinating paroxysms following neural disturbance, and a refractory period. Generally, TN can be diagnosed by the typical patient history, a negative neurologic exam, and response to a trial of carbamazepine. Imaging studies should be considered if the diagnosis is uncertain or neurologic abnormalities are noted.
Most cases are caused by compression of the trigeminal nerve root, usually within a few millimeters of entry into the pons. In a few cases, TN is caused by a primary demyelinating disorder. The treatment modalities for the management of TN may be divided into medical, surgical, and γ-knife radiosurgery. Generally, response to drug therapy is good, with over 80% of patients responding to some of the anticonvulsants. Percutaneous approaches to trigeminal gangliolysis are considered to have less associated risk and less cost than open surgical procedures. Three different techniques may be used to perform percutaneous destruction of the ganglion: percutaneous radiofrequency trigeminal gangliolysis (PRTG), percutaneous balloon microcompression (PBM), and percutaneous retrogasserian glycerol rhizotomy (PRGR). Open surgical procedures used in the treatment of TN include microvascular decompression of the trigeminal root and retrogasserian rhizotomy. Additionally, because both of these procedures have greater associated risks, morbidity, and mortality, they are customarily applied only to younger patients in good health. Stereotactic radiosurgery has been established as an alternative treatment for patients who do not respond to optimal medical management.