Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that
affects the trigeminal nerve, one of the most widely
distributed nerves in the head that carries sensation
from the face to the brain. For patients with this
disorder, even mild face stimulation, such as brushing
teeth, shaving, or applying makeup, can trigger a jolt of
excruciating pain. Initially, symptoms that mainly occur
in the throat, jaw, tooth and lip, last only a few seconds
and consist of intense, stabbing pain. But over time,
they can progress and lead to longer, more frequent
bouts of searing pain.
Dr. Gong, at the Third Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University, is an expert in the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. He typically performs percutaneous micro balloon compression, a procedure in which nerve fibers are damaged to block the pain. Despite the minimally invasive nature of this operation, it is very challenging to accomplish.
“Because everyone’s skull is unique, the location of puncture target varies from person to person,” Dr. Gong explained. “The bones have different shapes, and the soft tissue in the face is also mobile.” To ensure that the needle is inserted at the precise spot and passed through the right path, X-rays are constantly needed. Normally, the patient is subjected to at least five or six X-rays. This not only lengthens the operation but also exposes both the patient and the doctor to significant radiation. The radiation also increases the damage to the tissues around the oval foramen. To alleviate these problems, Dr. Gong sought out a more efficient way to perform the micro balloon compression.