OHSU

Trigeminal Stimulation

Your doctor may suggest using electrical stimulation to treat your trigeminal neuralgia. With this treatment called trigeminal nerve stimulation, your doctor targets  electrodes (metal wire that conducts mild electrical signals) at your trigeminal nerve.

The procedure

During the procedure, you lie on your back. Your doctor gives you an injection (shot) of local anesthetic to numb your face, and places a small electrode (metal wire that conducts mild electrical signals) under the skin.

Using a CT scan (CAT scan), your doctor makes sure the electrode is in the right area to treat your pain. Your doctor then connects the electrode to an external neurostimulator (device that gives off tiny electric impulses).

Next, you receive a tiny electrical current to your nerve. You may feel a skin sensation in the affected area of your face such as:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Prickling or tingling

Once you feel these sensations, the external neurostimulator is temporarily implanted and remains attached to the electrode. You will have a trial stimulation period so that you can determine if nerve stimulation is helpful to you.

After the procedure

If you have electrical nerve stimulation for facial pain, you stay in the hospital overnight for observation. You go home the next day. Your doctor gives you instructions for using the stimulator.

At home, you record and rate your pain and how much you can reduce your medication (take less medication). If the stimulation reduces your pain enough during the trial period, your doctor removes the external device and makes a permanent, implanted connection to the electrode.

Risks of electrical stimulation for facial pain

This procedure is usually safe. However, you may develop an infection. Also, if there are problems with the electrode and neurostimulator, you might need another surgery to replace them. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the potential risks of your particular procedure.