A new case study published in the Romanian Journal of Morphology & Embryology looks at the trigeminal nerve in MRI images. The research illuminates the anatomy of the trigeminal nerve, but may also hold clues to how trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is caused in some people.
The MRI scans were taken of a 50-year-old woman suffering from facial pain. Her trigeminal ganglion was also imaged.
This case study allows scientists and doctors to better understand the trigeminal nerve, including details about how it is situated, where it originates, and what its different functions are. Equally importantly, it also suggests a protocol for detecting the source of TN in MRI scans. It sets forth a list of precise areas to examine, and methods to be used during imaging.
In this patient’s case, the MRI scan revealed that part of the trigeminal nerve was compressed by an artery. The authors state that in almost 15% of TN cases a vein or artery can be identified in imaging as the culprit, and this protocol will hopefully improve the ability of doctors to diagnose and find the source of TN pain.
The full range of causes for TN are not fully understood, but tumors and multiple sclerosis have also been implicated. In the cases where TN is caused by compression from a vein or artery, a surgery called microvascular decompression can sometimes be used to relieve the pressure on the trigeminal nerve.