If you have trigeminal neuralgia, you may be frustrated over the poor results you get from taking medication or the undesired side effects of medication. While there are several medications that can be used to relieve the intense pain caused by this condition, medications aren't always effective. When medications don't work, your quality of life can be seriously impacted by bouts of intense facial pain, but a solution could be surgery. You may want to discuss nerve decompression with your neurologist to see if you're a good candidate and if the procedure might help you. Here's what microvascular decompression surgery for trigeminal neuralgia entails.
A Hospital Stay Is Necessary
Microvascular decompression surgery is a form of brain surgery that requires general anesthesia. You'll stay at least a few days in the hospital after the surgery so the medical staff can monitor your condition after the procedure. You'll be given medications to help with pain from the incision and nausea from general anesthesia if they're needed.
The Procedure Separates A Vessel And Nerve
The pain from trigeminal neuralgia happens when the nerve is compressed by an artery or vein along the base of your skull. The goal of decompression surgery is to separate the vessel and nerve to stop the pain. It's necessary to remove a small piece of bone in your skull to reach the nerve. First, an incision is made behind your ear, and then an opening is made in your skull.
The neurosurgeon then moves the vessel away from your nerve and uses biocompatible padding to keep them apart. The bone is replaced and the incision is closed with stitches or staples. You may notice immediate results from the procedure and be able to gradually wean off your trigeminal neuralgia medications under your doctor's supervision.
A Full Recovery Could Take Several Weeks
Your neurologist will send you home with instructions for recovery. You'll need to avoid heavy lifting, avoid driving, and take off work for about a month for your recovery. You'll have staples removed in a couple of weeks, and your doctor will assess your progress and let you know when you can resume all activities and go back to work. You may need to refrain from dyeing your hair for several months after the surgery.
You might have some facial numbness, hearing loss, and other side effects from the surgery, but these often go away as you heal. While microvascular decompression is brain surgery and can be concerning to think about, the results could mean you're free of severe pain and side effects from medications, so it's a treatment option to consider exploring with your doctor. Talk to a neurosurgeon today to learn more.