Trigeminal neuralgia is a severe facial pain disorder that has been studied for decades. Classical trigeminal neuralgia (CTN) is either idiopathic or caused by neurovascular compression. The related painful trigeminal neuropathies are often secondary to other causes, such as multiple sclerosis or trauma.
Therapies for trigeminal neuralgia and neuropathy have often been pharmacologic or surgical. Pharmacologic therapies are not effective in some cases and often cause side effects, some substantial. Surgery can have comorbidity (such as anesthesia dolorosa, or painful differentiation of the affected nerve distribution) and also is not always effective. There is a desire, as in all chronic conditions, to find effective treatments with minimal morbidity and side effects.
We review several devices including neuromodulation, ranging in invasiveness, for treatment of trigeminal neuralgia and neuropathy. We review existing data on sphenopalatine ganglion blocks, transcranial magnetic stimulation, transcortical direct stimulation, deep brain stimulation, spinal cord stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation, and transcutaneous electrical stimulation for CTN and pain trigeminal neuropathies. We also offer hope for further research in this area with the goal of discovering a device that can provide treatment for many with few side effects and minimal morbidity.