Demonstration of neurovascular compression in trigeminal neuralgia and hemifacial spasm with magnetic resonance imaging: comparison with surgical findings in 60 consecutive cases

Hitoshi Fukuda, Masatsune Ishikawa, Ryosuke Okumura
Surgical Neurology 2003, 59 (2): 93-9; discussion 99-100

BACKGROUND: Until recently, it has been impossible to demonstrate vascular compression at the root entry or exit zone (REZ) of the trigeminal nerve and facial nerve in patients with trigeminal neuralgia (TN) and hemifacial spasm (HFS) preoperatively, although surgical findings have revealed apparent neurovascular compression and its correction has resulted in a good outcome in most cases. Revealing the anatomic correlation between nerves and vessels at the REZ preoperatively would be useful to predict operative findings.

METHODS: To assess whether the vascular contact of the nerve at the REZ could be demonstrated preoperatively, high-resolution magnetic resonance tomographic angiography (MRTA) was performed in 21 patients with TN and 39 with HFS. Neuroradiological findings were compared with the operative findings in all patients. Contralateral asymptomatic nerves were evaluated as a control.

RESULTS: MRTA correctly identified offending vessels in 14 (67%) of the 21 TN and 34 (87%) of the 39 HFS patients. Failure to identify neurovascular contact was noted in the cases with compression by veins or small arteries, thickened arachnoid, or distal compression. Neurovascular contact was also observed in 15% of the asymptomatic nerves. The deformity of the nerve seemed to be a more important factor for determining operative indication.

CONCLUSIONS: MRTA could demonstrate offending vessels in TN and HFS at a high rate and was useful to predict operative findings. MRTA gave supportive evidence of surgical indications in patients with TN and HFS, although attention should be paid to the fact that MRTA did not necessarily detect all of the offending vessels.

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