Another report on Botox for trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a rare, but an extremely painful conditions. Patients compare the quality and the severity of pain to an electric shock. The underlying cause is usually compression of the trigeminal nerve by a blood vessel inside the skull and underneath the brain. Surgery to place a teflon pad between the nerve and the blood vessel is curative, but many patients can avoid surgery by using drugs such as carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, baclofen, and other. Botox, which is approved only for one pain condition – chronic migraines, appears to help other painful conditions, including trigeminal neuralgia (TN). A single previous double-blind placebo-controlled study by Chinese doctors confirmed our clinical observation that Botox does indeed help TN.

A new report presented at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society, also by Chinese researchers describes another positive study. This study compared a single injection of Botox with two injections separated by two weeks. It is not clear what was the logic in giving a second treatment so soon after the first one since Botox effect lasts 3 months. They followed 81 patients for 6 months and both groups had more than 80% success in the first 3 months and somewhat less of an effect in the last 3 months of the study. This was not a blinded study, but placebo response is relatively low in TN, probably because of the high pain intensity. While this study was not as scientific as the first one, it does offer some additional evidence of the efficacy of Botox for TN. Botox is certainly much safer than medications, although facial asymmetry can be an unpleasant cosmetic side effect, especially if pain involves the second branch of the TN (middle of the face).

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