5 Trigeminal Neuralgia Surgeries Compared
Trigeminal neuralgia pain most often occurs when a blood vessel compresses the trigeminal nerve near the bottom of the brain. The resulting malfunction causes pain to shoot through the teeth, jaw, cheek, gums, lips, eye, or forehead on one side of the face. While episodes may be mild and brief, they are known to become more frequent and more severe with time.
Medications may be used to relieve the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia, but they can come with side effects that include double vision, nausea, dizziness, confusion, or drowsiness. Even if you don’t experience side effects, medications may lose their effectiveness eventually. Fortunately, there are multiple surgical options you can choose to permanently reduce or eliminate trigeminal neuralgia.
1. Radiosurgery With CyberKnife
CyberKnife radiosurgery for trigeminal neuralgia pain delivers focused radiation to the trigeminal nerve, damaging it and reducing or altogether, eliminating its ability to malfunction and cause pain. The procedure is one of the least invasive surgeries for trigeminal neuralgia pain, and, unlike some other procedures, it can be repeated if necessary. That’s important, because trigeminal neuralgia pain can return after surgery. CyberKnife for trigeminal neuralgia is gaining popularity because it’s an effective, non-invasive treatment that requires no incisions. More trigeminal neuralgia sufferers than ever are using radiosurgery with CyberKnife to relieve symptoms.
2. Microvascular Decompression
In this more invasive procedure, a surgeon makes a small incision near the base of the trigeminal nerve and then opens up your skull in order to physically move aside any blood vessels that may be compressing the nerve. It may be necessary to ensure that the blood vessels don’t come back into contact with the nerve by separating them from the trigeminal nerve with a small implant. It may also be necessary to remove a vein or sever the trigeminal nerve itself. Though microvascular decompression is usually successful, it carries risks, including:
- Facial numbness
- Hearing loss
- Double vision
- Facial weakness
3. Balloon Compression
In this procedure, the surgeon uses a hollow needle and catheter to insert a balloon near your trigeminal nerve where it protrudes from the base of your skull. Once the balloon is inflated, it causes enough damage to the nerve to stop the pain signals it sends. Like other invasive procedures for trigeminal neuralgia, balloon compression can cause facial numbness. You may also experience weakness in the jaw, which can be permanent.
A glycerol injection for trigeminal neuralgia pain involves inserting a needle through the face and into the skull where the trigeminal nerve passes through it. Once the needle is inserted, your doctor will inject sterile glycerol in order to damage the trigeminal nerve and relieve any pain. The pain can return, however, and numbness of the face or tingling can occur.
5. Radiofrequency Thermal Lesioning
For the first part of this procedure, you’ll be sedated as your doctor guides a hollow needle into the opening through which your trigeminal nerve emerges from your skull. He or she will insert an electrode through the needle and administer an electric current. Your doctor will then bring you out of sedation so you can identify when and where the electric current causes a tingling sensation. The information you give will help the doctor determine which specific nerve fibers to damage in order to eliminate your symptoms. You may need to repeat the procedure and there may be some facial numbness afterward, but it usually isn’t permanent.
If you’re thinking of getting surgery for trigeminal neuralgia pain, you need to know all your options. Many of the procedures carry risks, just like any surgery. But with CyberKnife, you can experience non-surgical relief of trigeminal neuralgia pain with minimal recovery time and fewer side effects.