Trigeminal neuralgia: Current approaches and emerging interventions

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Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) has been described in the literature as one of the most debilitating presentations of orofacial pain. This review summarizes over 150 years of collective clinical experience in the medical and surgical treatment of TN. Fundamentally, TN remains a clinical diagnosis that must be distinguished from other types of trigeminal neuropathic pain and/or facial pain associated with other neuralgias or headache syndromes. What is increasingly clear is that there is no catch-all medical or surgical intervention that is effective for all patients with trigeminal neuralgia, likely reflective of the fact that TN is likely a heterogenous group of disorders that jointly manifests in facial pain. The first-line treatment for TN remains anticonvulsant medical therapy. Patients who fail this have a range of surgical options available to them. In general, microvascular decompression is a safe and effective procedure with immediate and durable outcomes. Patients who are unable to tolerate general anesthesia or whose medical comorbidities preclude a suboccipital craniectomy may benefit from percutaneous methodologies including glycerol or radiofrequency ablation, or both. For patients with bleeding diathesis due to blood thinning medications who are ineligible for invasive procedures, or for those who are unwilling to undergo open surgical procedures, radiosurgery may be an excellent option—provided the patient understands that maximum pain relief will take on the order of months to achieve. Finally, peripheral neurectomies continue to provide an inexpensive and resource-sparing alternative to pain relief for patients in locations with limited economic and medical resources. Ultimately, elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying trigeminal neuralgia will pave the way for novel, more effective and less invasive therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3437-3463
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Pain Research
StatePublished - 2021


  • Facial pain
  • Glycerol
  • Microvascular decompression
  • Partial sensory rhizotomy
  • Radiofrequency
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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