Glossopharyngeal neuralgia caused by a complex neurovascular conflict: Case report and review of the literature

Concetta Alafaci, Francesca Granata, Mariano Cutugno, Daniele Marino, Alfredo Conti, Francesco Tomasello
Surgical Neurology International 2015, 6: 19

BACKGROUND: Glossopharyngeal neuralgia (GN) is a rare condition characterized by severe, paroxysmal episodes of pain mainly localized to the external ear canal, pharynx, and tongue, usually caused by a neurovascular conflict between postero-inferior cerebellar artery (PICA) and IX cranial nerve. Sometimes there is also a compression of X c.n.

CASE DESCRIPTION: We present a case of a 71-year-old female with a 3-year history of intense pain localized in the pharynx and posterior portion of the tongue. Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) documented a neurovascular conflict between a loop of PICA and IX left c.n. Surgery was performed through a retrosigmoid craniectomy. The intraoperative findings documented a loop of PICA compressing IX, X, and XI c.n. Microvascular decompression (MVD) of IX c.n. was performed using the interposing technique. No rhizotomy and MVD of the X c.n. was performed. Postoperative course showed the regression of all symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS: The surgical treatment of patients with GN caused by complex neurovascular conflicts can be safely performed with the classical MVD of IX c.n. A double MVD of both IX and X c.n. has a role only in patients presenting symptoms from both nerves. Rhizotomy, in our opinion, has to be avoided in all cases. The authors review the literature concerning GN caused by complex neurovascular conflicts.

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