Trigeminal neuralgia results in sudden, severe, painful, stabbing, or electric-like shock in the face.
The trigeminal nerve has three sections, which affect:
Blood-vessel compression of the trigeminal nerve causes trigeminal neuralgia. Pain can be caused by:
It can occur in one or all areas, though symptoms usually begin on one side of the face, and affect both sides in about 5 percent of people.
Atypical trigeminal neuralgia shares several symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia. Microvascular decompression surgery may be indicated in certain cases, but the effectiveness of this treatment for atypical trigeminal neuralgia is less favorable.
Trigeminal neuralgia is first treated medically before surgery is considered as a treatment option. If medication is not effective, UPMC neurosurgeons usually recommend Microvascular Decompression. This minimally invasive surgery treats the cause of the problem, offers the most long-lasting relief, and minimizes risk of postoperative side effects like numbness.
UPMC’s high volume of trigeminal neuralgia patients has allowed our surgeons to research treatment effectiveness, making UPMC a world leader in the management and treatment of both trigeminal neuralgia and atypical trigeminal neuralgia.
Your doctor may ask about any symptoms you are experiencing.
Symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia often include sudden, severe, painful, stabbing, or electric-like shock in the face.
MRI scans with and without an injected contrast dye are essential to diagnosis because similar symptoms can occur due to:
Trigeminal neuralgia is first treated with anticonvulsant drugs, and doctors may prescribe other medications as well. In many cases, patients are:
In such cases, UPMC surgeons usually recommend one of the following treatments:
Microvascular decompression is a minimally invasive surgical procedure using endoscopes that:
Microvascular decompression relieves abnormal compression of a cranial nerve. The surgery consists of a linear incision behind the ear followed by a craniectomy (bony opening) the size of a silver dollar.
Under the view of a microscope or endoscope, the surgeons detect the area where the blood vessel is affecting the nerve and then separate them, leaving a Teflon "pillow" in between.
Each year, more than 500 people with trigeminal neuralgia are treated at UPMC, including about 100 who undergo microvascular decompression.
This high volume allows doctors here to pursue research aimed at improving treatment effectiveness, making UPMC a world leader in the management of trigeminal neuralgia.
In the last 25 years, UPMC neurosurgeons have treated more than 20,000 patients with trigeminal neuralgia. Treatment provides:
One year after surgery:
Major complications occur in fewer than 5 percent of cases.
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a painless procedure that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target tumors and lesions within the brain, with no surgical incision.
Patients with typical trigeminal neuralgia who have had an adequate trial of medications can be offered Gamma Knife treatment. It is typically used for
UPMC is the nation’s leading provider of Gamma Knife procedures. Over its 25-year history at UPMC, Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery has proved effective for nearly 12,000 patients with:
Dr. Raymond Sekula discusses treatment options for trigeminal neuralgia.
Watch video »
Dr. L. Dade Lunsford discusses Gamma Knife Radiosurgery.
Dr. L. Dade Lunsford discusses the benefits of glycerol rhizotomy treatment.
Watch video »
How can we help you?
Schedule anappointment >
Ask a question >
Request our expertopinion >
1-877-986-9862(within the U.S.)
Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by
A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.
For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.
UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.
Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.
For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com