Trigeminal neuralgia: a practical guide

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a highly disabling disorder characterised by very severe, brief and electric shock like recurrent episodes of facial pain. New diagnostic criteria, which subclassify TN on the basis of presence of trigeminal neurovascular conflict or an underlying neurological disorder, should be used as they allow better characterisation of patients and help in decision-making regarding medical and surgical treatments. MR, including high-resolution trigeminal sequences, should be performed as part of the diagnostic work-up. Carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine are drugs of first choice. Lamotrigine, gabapentin, pregabalin, botulinum toxin type A and baclofen can be used either alone or as add-on therapy. Surgery should be considered if the pain is poorly controlled or the medical treatments are poorly tolerated. Trigeminal microvascular decompression is the first-line surgery in patients with trigeminal neurovascular conflict while neuroablative surgical treatments can be offered if MR does not show any neurovascular contact or where patients are considered too frail for microvascular decompression or do not wish to take the risk.

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