Trigeminal neuralgia is universally acknowledged as one of the most painful afflictions known to adults, affecting thousands of Americans each year. A form of microvascular nerve compression, trigeminal neuralgia causes episodes of intense, stabbing, electric shock-like facial pain. The pain results from blood vessels coming into contact with the fifth cranial (trigeminal) nerve and applying pressure to the nerve. The shock of this excruciating pain can actually cause a sufferer's head to snap back, or it can immobilize the individual. The pain attacks viciously and without warning. Left untreated it tends to worsen over time.
Patients with neurovascular problems, such as trigeminal neuralgia, hemifacial spasm, intractable vertigo and spasmodic torticollis, may benefit from micro surgical procedures. Surgeons perform this delicate microvascular decompression procedure through a small opening behind the ear. Through this opening, surgeons can identify the problem and perform the procedure - meticulously separating the nerve and blood vessel, and inserting a Teflon disk between them. Once the pressure has been relieved, patients often report immediate and complete relief of symptoms.
The complexity of managing facial disorders requires a dedicated, multidisciplinary approach. Available at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, this specialized service brings together Dr. Wouter Schievink, Director of the Microvascular Neurosurgery Program, and renowned pain specialist Dr. Stephen Graff-Radford, Director, The Program for Headache and Orofacial Pain at the Pain Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Treatment alternatives include medical, surgical, psychological and pharmacological management - each customized to the patient's needs. Pain experts, surgeons, neurologists and psychologists closely collaborate to provide the most appropriate care for each patient.
For an in depth look at the condition, please read Dr. Graff-Radford's article in the Neurosciences Report entitled "Trigeminal Neuralgia: Classification, Diagnosis and Treatment."