What are the possible complications of trigeminal neuralgia (TN)?

Updated: Jul 11, 2019
  • Author: Manish K Singh, MD; Chief Editor: Robert A Egan, MD  more...
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The chief complication in trigeminal neuralgia is the adverse effects and toxicity experienced routinely with long-term use of anticonvulsant agents. Another complication is the waning efficacy over several years of these drugs in controlling neuralgia, necessitating the addition of a second anticonvulsant, which may cause more drug-related adverse reactions.

Failure to diagnose a brainstem tumor and bone marrow aplasia as an idiosyncratic adverse effect of carbamazepine are common pitfalls to avoid.

Standard care must be applied to invasive procedures, which are most subject to potential claims. Percutaneous neurosurgical procedures and microvascular decompression procedures pose risks of long-term complications. Perioperative risks also exist. See Trigeminal Neuralgia Surgery. Moreover, patients may have to wait for weeks or months after the operation for relief, and some find relief only for 1-2 years and then must weigh the option of a second operation.

Some patients permanently lose sensation over a portion of the face or mouth. Occasionally, patients may suffer jaw weakness and/or corneal anesthesia. Corneal ulceration can result because of trophic disturbances from nerve deafferentation.

After any invasive treatments, reactivation of a herpes simplex infection is not uncommon.

The worst complication is anesthesia dolorosa, an intractable facial dysesthesia, which may be more disabling than the original trigeminal neuralgia. This dysesthesia may be caused by procedures and, sometimes, surgery.

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