European Radiology

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 511–533 | Cite as

Trigeminal neuralgia and facial nerve paralysis

  • Alexandra Borges


The trigeminal nerve is the largest of the cranial nerves. It provides sensory input from the face and motor innervation to the muscles of mastication. The facial nerve is the cranial nerve with the longest extracranial course, and its main functions include motor innervation to the muscles of facial expression, sensory control of lacrimation and salivation, control of the stapedial reflex and to carry taste sensation from the anterior two-thirds of the tongue. In order to be able adequately to image and follow the course of these cranial nerves and their main branches, a detailed knowledge of neuroanatomy is required. As we are dealing with very small anatomic structures, high resolution dedicated imaging studies are required to pick up normal and pathologic nerves. Whereas CT is best suited to demonstrate bony neurovascular foramina and canals, MRI is preferred to directly visualize the nerve. It is also the single technique able to detect pathologic processes afflicting the nerve without causing considerable expansion such as is usually the case in certain inflammatory/infectious conditions, perineural spread of malignancies and in very small intrinsic tumours. Because a long course from the brainstem nuclei to the peripheral branches is seen, it is useful to subdivide the nerve in several segments and then tailor the imaging modality and the imaging study to that specific segment. This is particularly true in cases where topographic diagnosis can be used to locate a lesion in the course of these nerves.


Trigeminal neuralgia Facial nerve palsy Cranial neuropathy CT MRI 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of RadiologyIPOFGLisbonPortugal

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