Surgery and Other Options
Surgeons recommend invasive procedures only after available drug options have been shown not to help a person manage the condition. Surgeons might turn to a minimally-invasive procedure called microvascular decompression, in which a surgeon makes a minor incision behind the ear and places a “pillow” between the nerve and blood vessel that’s putting pressure on it. This procedure has been successful with patients, with over 75% experiencing complete pain relief after a year of surgery.
It may seem strange, but some of the primary invasive surgeries for treating this condition involve damaging the nerve to relieve pain. One of these procedures is called brain stereotactic radiosurgery (Gamma knife), which uses radiation to target the nerve and “damage it,” which relieves pain. Another type of nerve-damaging surgery is called a rhizotomy, where a surgeon damages the nerve fibers to help ease pain through an injection, balloon compression, or thermal lesioning.
The use of Botox, derived from the botulinum toxin, is being investigated as an additional non-surgical option due to its potential to freeze muscles of the face. Research with Botox as a treatment is still ongoing, but a small study published in the journal Medicine shows promising results.
If you have been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, talk to your neurologist about the best options for managing your symptoms. You may also decide to meet with a counselor to address the mental health concerns associated with the condition. No matter your age or stage in life, your treatment team can help you on your way to recovery, so you won’t have to fear any pain when showing off your bright, beautiful smile.