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​Microvascular Decompression Surgery, Recovery Time, and Side Effects

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UPMC is one of the nation's leading centers for microvascular decompression, a minimally invasive surgical procedure that treats the cause of the cranial nerve disorders, offers the most long-lasting relief, and minimizes risk of postoperative side effects like numbness.

Microvascular decompression at UPMC is often used to treat:

Microvascular Decompression Surgery: What to Expect

Conducted under general anesthesia, the surgery consists of an incision behind the ear followed by a craniectomy (bony opening) the size of a silver dollar.

Under the view of a microscope, our neurosurgeons detect the area where the blood vessel is affecting the nerve and then separate them, leaving a nonstick PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) "pillow" in between.

Recovery from this procedure is brief. Most people can leave the hospital one or two days after microvascular decompression surgery.

Outcomes of Microvascular Decompression Surgery at UPMC

Each year, UPMC neurosurgeons treat more than 500 patients with trigeminal neuralgia, including about 100 who undergo microvascular decompression.

Over the last 25 years, we have treated more than 20,000 people with trigeminal neuralgia. This high volume of patients has allowed us to pursue research aimed at improving treatment effectiveness, making UPMC a world leader in the management of trigeminal neuralgia.

Microvascular decompression provides:

  • Immediate, complete relief in 82 percent of current patients treated
  • Partial relief, requiring occasional or low-dose medication, in 16 percent of current patients treated

One year after surgery:

  • 75 percent of patients continue to enjoy complete pain relief
  • 8 percent have partial relief

Major complications occur in fewer than 5 percent of cases.

In addition, 92 percent of current patients with hemifacial spasm who were treated with microvascular decompression at UPMC experienced complete relief or dramatically improved symptoms.*

*Each case is different and your results may vary from what is typical.