What is the cranial anatomy relevant to trigeminal neuralgia (TN)?

Updated: Jul 11, 2019
  • Author: Manish K Singh, MD; Chief Editor: Robert A Egan, MD  more...
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The trigeminal nerve is the largest of all the cranial nerves. It exits laterally at the mid-pons level and has 2 divisions—a smaller motor root (portion minor) and a larger sensory root (portion major). The motor root supplies the temporalis, pterygoid, tensor tympani, tensor palati, mylohyoid, and anterior belly of the digastric. The motor root also contains sensory nerve fibers that particularly mediate pain sensation.

The gasserian ganglion is located in the trigeminal fossa (Meckel cave) of the petrous bone in the middle cranial fossa. It contains the first-order general somatic sensory fibers that carry pain, temperature, and touch. The peripheral processes of neurons in the ganglion form the 3 divisions of the trigeminal nerve (ie, ophthalmic, maxillary, and mandibular). The ophthalmic division exits the cranium via the superior orbital fissure; the maxillary and mandibular divisions exit via the foramen rotundum and foramen ovale, respectively.

The proprioceptive afferent fibers travel with the efferent and afferent roots. They are peripheral processes of unipolar neurons located centrally in the mesencephalic nucleus of the trigeminal nerve.

The image below depicts the anatomy of the trigeminal nerve.

Illustration depicting the trigeminal nerve with i Illustration depicting the trigeminal nerve with its 3 main branches

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