Invasive treatments for trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is an excruciatingly painful disorder which affects about one in a thousand people. Patients describe the pain of TN as an electric shock going through the face. The pain is brief, but can be so frequent as to become incapacitating. Eating and talking often triggers the pain, so some patients become malnourished and depressed. The good news is that most people can obtain relief from this condition by taking medications, such as Tegretol (carbamazepine), Trileptal (oxcarbazepine), Dilantin (phenytoin), or Lioresal (baclofen). Patients who do not respond to medications have several surgical options available. According to a new Dutch nationwide study of three invasive treatments for trigeminal neuralgia published in journal Pain shows that every year about 1% of those suffering from TN undergo surgery. Of the three most common types of surgery, percutaneous radiofrequency thermocoagulation (PRT) is by far most popular – in  a three year period in Holland, 672 patients underwent PRT, 87 underwent microvascular decompression (MVD), and 39 underwent partial sensory rhizotomy (PSR). The latter two procedures a performed by neurosurgeons (MVD requires opening of the skull), while PRT is usually done by anesthesiologists (a probe is inserted through the cheek to the nerve ganglion under X-ray guidance). MVD was most effective, but caused more complications than PRT, although fewer than with PSR. More patients having PRT had to have a repeat procedure, but it was still safer than the other two. Very often the physician under-treats during the first treatment of PRT in order to avoid complications. Overall, the best initial procedure for those suffering with TN is PRT and if repeated PRTs fail, MVD can sure this condition.

Submit comment