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The receptive field for visceral pain referred orofacially by the vagus nerves.

Clinical Anatomy 2021 January
BACKGROUND: The nociceptive receptive field of the vagus nerves in animals includes virtually the entire thoracic, abdominal and laryngopharyngeal regions. However, the role of the vagus nerves in the transmission of visceral pain in humans, with the exception of pain from coronary artery diseases, is believed to be insignificant.

AIM: The purpose of this report is to map out the clinical visceral pain receptive field of the vagus nerves relative to its nociceptive counterpart in animals.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The PubMed database and PMC were searched for case reports of patients with orofacial pain believed by the author(s) of the article to be referred from underlying non-cardiac thoracic, laryngopharyngeal or abdominal diseases. Reports of diseases for which non-neural explanations for the orofacial spread of pain were suggested were excluded.

RESULTS: A total of 52 case reports of jaw pain and/or otalgia referred from laryngopharyngeal and noncardiac thoracic sources were discovered. In addition, a multicenter prospective study found that 25.8% of more than 3,000 patients with thoracic aortic dissection experienced pain in the head and neck region. In stark contrast, no case reports of orofacially referred pain from abdominal diseases were found.

DISCUSSION: The results indicate that the laryngopharyngeal and thoracic portions of the vagal receptive field are capable of referring pain orofacially while the abdominal portion is not. The roles of the somatotopic organization of the trigeminal sub nucleus caudalis and neuromodulation in this referral of pain were discussed.

CONCLUSION: Referred orofacial pain can lead to delayed diagnosis and poorer outcome in visceral diseases.

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