The temporal evolution of a facial pain syndrome associated with neurovascular contact: a case report

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BACKGROUND: Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias are primary headaches characterized by unilateral pain and cranial autonomic symptoms. However, associated autonomic symptoms have also been reported in other headaches and facial pains, e.g. trigeminal neuralgia, with the clinical differentiation proving a complex task.

CASE: A 54-year-old man presented with right-sided, sharp, intense facial pain in the distribution area of the trigeminal nerve. Pain duration was from seconds to a few minutes, and trigger factors included ipsilateral touching of the skin and hair. Over the next ten years, symptoms progressed and changed presentation, also displaying as right-sided, severe, orbital pain, lasting 60 to 90 minutes, with conjunctival injection and rhinorrhea. Neurological examination was normal. Numerous medications were tried with limited or no effect. In 2010, magnetic resonance imaging revealed a right-sided deviation of the basilar artery at the level of pons, creating neurovascular contact with the trigeminal nerve. Microvascular decompression was performed, and symptoms resolved within days.

CONCLUSION: Differentiating between trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias and trigeminal neuralgia with autonomic symptoms can be challenging. The distinct change and evolution over time in the clinical presentation of the patient's head pain suggests a temporal plasticity of the pain in head and facial syndromes, irrespective of underlying pathoanatomic features.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Research areas

  • Diagnosis, Differential, Facial Neuralgia, Facial Pain, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Middle Aged, Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias, Trigeminal Nerve, Trigeminal Neuralgia

ID: 159107206