Treatment for complex tumors at the base of the skull
Published: May 11, 2012
Updated: May 11, 2012
Neurovascular compression disorders occur when arteries press against certain nerves in the brain. Common neurovascular compression disorders include hemifacial spasms, trigeminal neuralgia, and glossopharyngeal neuralgia.
Each disorder and its specific symptoms are described in more detail below. They are listed in order of how commonly they are seen.
Hemifacial spasms cause uncontrolled movement on one side of the face. At first, the movements can be random, but, over time, the movements can become continuous. Hemifacial spasms are not painful.
Hemifacial spasms are more common in women, and typically affect the left side of the face. These spasms are usually seen after the teen years.
With trigeminal neuralgia, patients have sharp, shock-like pain that typically shoots from the ear across one side of the face.
Pain can result from chewing, talking, eating or drinking hot or cold foods or liquids, or anything else that stimulates the area. There can be periods of relief.
Trigeminal neuralgia initially responds to medication, but eventually will likely need surgical intervention.
Women are almost twice as likely to have this neurovascular disorder as men. It typically occurs on the right side of the face and is seen most often in patients older than 50; the average age is 60.
Trigeminal neuralgia can be caused by multiple sclerosis.
With glossopharyngeal neuralgia, patients have tongue pain or pain with yawning or swallowing that is felt on one side of the face.
This condition is rare with only one case occurring for every 70 of trigeminal neuralgia. Because it is so rare, there is no definitive information on the population it most commonly effects.
Neurovascular compression disorders are diagnosed through a physical examination and a patient interview.
Many times, a doctor will order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to rule out other causes of these symptoms such as tumors.
These disorders can be initially treated with medications designed to alleviate the pain. When these medications fail, surgery to move the artery away from the nerve is typically recommended.
Surgery for neurovascular compression disorders involves opening a small window in the skull behind the ear and moving the problematic artery away from the compressed nerve.
The details of this surgery should be discussed with your surgeon. The risks and benefits of surgery will be discussed in this meeting as well.