Microvascular Decompression

Trigeminal nerve problems often lead to debilitating pain, but the first line of treatment can stop working or cause too many side effects. If that’s the case, our expert neurosurgeons use microvascular decompression to carefully move and cushion any blood vessels that are pressing on the nerve.

Learn more about the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia and our diagnostic approach.

Microvascular Decompression at St. Joseph’s Hospital

Before recommending surgery, our doctors try other treatments for trigeminal nerve problems:

  • Medications such as anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants to block nerve pain
  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery to focus radiations beams on the spot where the trigeminal nerve exits the brain stem, creating a lesion and blocking the transmission of pain signals

But the pain can become resistant to medication over time, and the drugs can cause serious side effects — particularly in ever-higher doses. Radiosurgery might also not provide lasting relief, requiring another approach.

Benefits of Microvascular Decompression

Our doctors need to give anesthesia and temporarily create a small hole in the skull for microvascular decompression, so they help you and your loved ones carefully weigh the decision about whether to go ahead. But the procedure does provide certain benefits over other trigeminal neuralgia treatments. Specifically, it:

  • Is the only option that directly fixes the underlying problem and does not wear off
  • Avoids medication and possible side effects
  • Poses less risk to the trigeminal nerve than other procedures
  • Provides the lowest rate of facial numbness of any trigeminal procedure
  • Offers the longest relief of pain, on average

Microvascular Decompression: What to Expect

There are several steps our neurosurgeons take to ensure your microvascular decompression is successful:

  • You receive general anesthesia to put you completely to sleep.
  • We make a small, temporary incision (craniotomy) in the skull, behind the ear.
  • With the aid of a microscope, your neurosurgeon locates the trigeminal nerve and identifies any blood vessels pushing on it.
  • We carefully move the blood vessel and insert a special sponge made of Teflon to cushion the nerve.
  • The hole in the skull is repaired.
  • You recover in the hospital for 2 to 3 days, on average.

Contact Us

For more information or for a physician referral, please call (813) 644-4322.