Pain Relief Through Medical Procedures
Although medications may be helpful for stabilizing symptoms over time, more aggressive cases of trigeminal neuralgia can lead to permanent damage of the trigeminal nerve. Such damage could result in severe pain or partial permanent facial numbness. If you do not respond well to medications, more complex procedures may be a viable option. The degree of severity of your trigeminal neuralgia, prior history of neuropathy, and general health all factor into the options that are available to you. You doctor can help make treatment determinations. The overall goal of these procedures is to minimize damage to the trigeminal nerve as well as to improve the quality of life when medications no longer useful in managing pain.
- Balloon Compression. This type of procedure has been shown to provide up to two years of pain relief, which is great! Also, many patients have mentioned that they experience temporary facial numbness when doing actions such as chewing; but this goes away within a short amount of times after the procedure. How this method works is a small balloon is inserted into the skull through a catheter and as it inflates, the trigeminal nerve is pressed against the head. This is typically an outpatient procedure that is performed under general anesthesia.
- Glycerol Injection. This process has been shown to offer 1 to 2 years of pain relief. Glycerol injection is used to “damage” a portion of the trigeminal nerve. Sounds counterintuitive but the damage caused by the glycerol injection results in pain relief. This is typically an outpatient procedure where a thin needle is inserted through the cheek into the base of the skull and near the portion of the trigeminal nerve.
- Microvascular Decompression (MVD). This is the most effective surgical treatment for trigeminal neuralgia where about 70-80% of patients have immediate, and complete pain relief and 60-70% remain pain-free for up to 10-20 years. Nonetheless, MVD is also the most invasive surgical procedure for treating trigeminal neuralgia. During surgery, your doctor makes a hole behind the ear. Then, using an endoscope to visualize the trigeminal nerve, your doctor will place a cushion between the nerve and the blood vessel that compresses the nerve. The recovery time for this procedure varies from person to person and often requires a hospital stay.