Patients with idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia have a sharper-than-normal trigeminal-pontine angle and trigeminal nerve atrophy
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Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is primarily diagnosed by symptoms and patient history. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging can be helpful in visualizing the neurovascular compression of the trigeminal nerve in TN patients, but the current parameters used as diagnostic markers for TN are less than optimal. The aim of this study is to assess whether the angle between the trigeminal nerve and the pons (the trigeminal-pontine angle) on the affected side of patients with idiopathic TN differs from that of the unaffected side and that found in controls without TN.
A case-control study of 30 clinically diagnosed idiopathic TN patients aged 30 to 79 years and 30 age- and sex-matched controls was conducted. We compared the trigeminal-pontine angle and trigeminal nerve atrophy via fast-imaging employing steady-state acquisition (FIESTA) MR imaging.
A sharp trigeminal-pontine angle was observed in 25 patients (25/30) on the affected side. As such, the mean angle of the trigeminal nerve on the affected side (40.17) was significantly smaller than that on the unaffected side (48.91, p = 0.001) and that in the control group (52.02, p < 0.001).
A sharp trigeminal-pontine angle on the affected side was found in idiopathic TN patients by FIESTA imaging. This suggests that a sharp trigeminal-pontine angle increases the chance of neurovascular compression on the medial side of the trigeminal nerve.