Treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) Using the Gamma Knife

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) now offers the Gamma Knife, a noninvasive treatment for trigeminal neuralgia.

What is Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN), also called tic douloureux, is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal or fifth cranial nerve, one of the largest nerves in the head. The disorder causes extreme, sporadic, sudden burning or shock-like face pain that lasts anywhere from a few seconds to 2 minutes per episode. These attacks can occur in quick succession. The intensity of pain can be physically and mentally incapacitating.

The trigeminal nerve is one of 12 pairs of cranial nerves that originate at the base of the brain. The nerve has three branches that conduct sensations from the upper, middle and lower portions of the face, as well as the oral cavity, to the brain. The ophthalmic, or upper, branch supplies sensation to most of the scalp, forehead and front of the head. The maxillary, or middle, branch passes through the cheek, upper jaw, top lip, teeth and gums, and to the side of the nose. The nerve’s mandibular, or lower, branch passes through the lower jaw, teeth, gums and bottom lip. More than one nerve branch can be affected by the disorder.

Trigeminal Neuralgia Treatment

Treatment options include medicines, surgery and complementary approaches. Robert Wood Johnson offers innovative treatment for trigeminal neualgia using the Gamma Knife. The Gamma Knife is a form of stereotactic radiosurgery that uses computer imaging to direct highly focused beams of radiation at the site where the trigeminal nerve exits the brain stem. This causes the slow formation of a lesion on the nerve that disrupts the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Pain relief from this procedure may take several months. Patients usually leave the hospital the same day or the next day following treatment.

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