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Radiofrequency Ablation For Trigeminal Neuralgia!

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Snehal Panchal 86% (78 ratings)
MD,DNB, MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Fellowship In Pain Management
Pain Management Specialist, Mumbai  •  21 years experience

Trigeminal Neuralgia is a type of chronic pain disorder, which affects the trigeminal nerve. There are mainly two types:

Typical Trigeminal Neuralgia and Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia.

The typical form or this disorder results in certain episodes of severe, sudden, shock-like pain in one side of the face, which lasts for seconds to few minutes.

Symptoms

Trigeminal Neuralgia may have symptoms which include one or more of patterns like the following:

  • Some episodes of severe,
  • Shooting pain which may seem like an electric shock.

A person might come across spontaneous attacks of pain or even attacks which might get triggered by certain things like touching the face, chewing, speaking or even while brushing the teeth.

Causes

When trigeminal neuralgia occurs, the trigeminal nerve’s function gets disrupted. The problem occurs through a contact between an artery or a vein and the trigeminal nerve at the base of one’s brain. This contact puts pressure on the nerve, thus causing it to malfunction.

Trigeminal Neuralgia can occur due to people getting aged or due to any kind of disorder that causes damage to the myelin sheath that protects certain nerves. A number of triggers can lead to the pain of trigeminal neuralgia, which include:

  • While shaving
  • When someone touches one’s face.
  • When a person is eating something.
  • While brushing teeth
  • Smiling
  • Washing one’s face.

What Is Radiofrequency Ablation for Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Radiofrequency Ablation or RFA is a technique by way of surgery, which helps to direct high-frequency heat on to the targeted areas of the body, such as tumors and tissues. When a person suffers chronic pain that means the high-frequency heat is getting targeted to the nerves.

A person suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, would have his or her doctor, who is a neurosurgeon, uses radiofrequency ablation to hit the trigeminal nerve, thereby destroying the nerve’s ability to get the pain signals transmitted to one’s brain.

Medication is the first line of treatment for trigeminal neuralgia by a neurosurgeon, to see how the patient reacts. If that person suffers from severe pain in the face and does not show any improvement through medication, then the doctor might recommend him/her to go for radiofrequency ablation surgery.

How Is The Procedure Conducted?

During the radiofrequency ablation for trigeminal neuralgia, people remain awake and asleep at different times. The process includes:

When the patient is asleep under the influence of general anaesthesia, a neurosurgeon would carefully place a needle through the corner of one’s mouth in order to reach the trigeminal nerve, which lies at the base of the skull. Then, once the X-rays confirm the needle is right in place, the neurosurgeon would wake the patient up, stimulate the nerve and ask the patient if he or she could feel the stimulation exactly at the place where the pain is experienced. This particular step confirms that the doctor has hit the right location. Once, the patient gets back to sleep, the doctor uses radiofrequency heat to minimally injure the nerve, sufficiently enough to induce a numb feeling on the face along with tingling, thus take the pain away.

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