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Nerve Pressure at Root of Painful Affliction

About half of patients suffering from one of the most painful disorders ever identified — trigeminal neuralgia– have blood vessels in the brain that apply severe pressure to the main sensory nerve of the face, according to a recent Danish study.

Using certain scanning technology, doctors soon may be able to assess whether blood vessel pressure is the cause of the disorder. Eventually, physicians could get better at predicting whether brain surgery could cure the painful affliction.

“We hope our research will lead to an increased number of successful operations so that more people with trigeminal neuralgia can get their lives back and be free of the pain which causes some patients to consider taking their own lives. It’s really important that we improve our knowledge of this disorder,” said lead author Stine Maarbjerg, doctor and Ph.D. student at the Danish Headache Centre at Glostrup Hospital.

This latest study provides critical insight into a disease about which little is known, said Christina Rostrup Kruuse, associate professor and doctor at the University of Copenhagen and Herlev Hospital.

“It’s a super exciting study which indicates that it’s the pressure of blood vessels that causes the affliction in approximately half the patients, but also that the other half suffer from the disorder for other reasons,” says Kruuse. “We now know with greater certainty that about half will get relief from the disorder if the blood vessels in the brain can be moved away from the nerves.”

The team of researchers from the Danish Headache Centre examined 135 trigeminal neuralgia patients, women and men, in a high quality MRI scanner.

When the scientists examined the nerves on the side of the face where the patients felt the pain, 53 per cent of them were under severe pressure from blood vessels.

Only 13 per cent of the nerves to the pain-free side of the face were under such pressure.

The study also showed that there is approximately 11 times the risk of a trigeminal neuralgia patient having severe blood vessel pressure on the nerves on the side of the face where they experience the pain.

Source: Science Nordic