Trigeminal neuralgia, or TN, is a medical condition that affects areas of the face where the trigeminal nerve’s branches are distributed. These areas would include the eyes, lips, scalp, nose, forehead, upper and lower jaws. The condition is often caused by an artery that causes compression to the nerve. This will result in the person feeling mind-numbing, stabbing electric shock-like pain.
This condition said to book the most severe types of pain known to humanity. The most common forms of trigeminal neuralgia affects 1 in 15,000 to 20,000, but 1 in 5,000 are thought to suffer from some type of facial pain.
This condition is often known as the suicide disease as the people are often in total agony. For some people if they touch their eyebrow it feels as if they stuck their finger in an electrical outlet. If they go outside and the wind touches their face, it will feel like the most intense toothache ever.
Despite the pain, new research has developed a new method for classifying and diagnosing TN. This method will allow the patient to do much of the diagnosis themselves. A research team has developed the world’s first online, artificial neural network to be used as a diagnostic tool for facial pain syndromes. It is an artificial intelligence-based computer program built around a classification scheme that categorizes forms of the disorder, and it can be trained to recognize patterns in facial pain data and continually improve its accuracy in predicting the correct diagnosis.
If a patient is able to have an accurate diagnosis, that means they will be able to quickly seek appropriate treatment. Sometimes a patient may state that there have been a pain and go to the dentist, from there the dentist might give them a root canal. This could continue until it is decided that the source of the pain might be something else.
The main researcher has used an 18-point questionnaire he developed that will allow him to clinically diagnose facial pain. Since facial pain types are based almost solely on a patient’s medical history, the questionnaire is comprised of yes-or-no questions that tend to make a difference in establishing the target diagnosis, such as whether the patient has multiple sclerosis, has suffered a facial injury or has had surgery for facial pain, and whether the pain is on just one side of the face or manifests during certain daily activities, like shaving or eating.
The responses they get from the questionnaire is then used to place the patient into one of seven trigeminal neuralgia categories. Type 1: or spontaneous, but severe and brief pain. Type 2: or spontaneous, more constant pain; trigeminal neuropathic pain from facial trauma, oral surgery, stroke or other causes; trigeminal deafferentation pain from procedures that intentionally injure the trigeminal nerve system to relieve other pain; symptomatic trigeminal neuralgia from multiple sclerosis; postherpetic neuralgia from trigeminal shingles; and atypical facial pain, which is more psychological rather than physiological in origin.
Burchiel doesn’t think patients should have to wait until a clinic visit to get a diagnosis, so he developed the artificial neural network, which patients can easily, and confidentially, access on the OHSU Department of Neurological Surgery’s Web site.
The computer system when used was able to accurately diagnose most of the patients who suffered from the condition. It also correctly diagnosed trigeminal neuralgia Type 1 with 84 percent sensitivity and 83 percent specificity among another 43 new patients who used the network before their clinic diagnosis. Sensitivity is a measure of a diagnostic tool’s ability to make a correct diagnosis, and specificity describes its ability to avoid a misdiagnosis.
One treatment for trigeminal neuralgia is surgery that is calledmicrovascular decompression. The procedure involves entering the brain through a small incision behind the ear. Once in there, the doctor will try to find and expose the trigeminal nerve with a powerful surgical microscope. The doctor will then position a piece of Teflon between the nerve and the artery that’s touching it and causing the pain.
Generally the procedure will offer longer-term relief from facial pain.