Background: Acute postoperative pain following craniofacial or esthetic surgery, or trauma is readily treated with medicinal regimens. Facial pain persisting for more than six months is defined as chronic and must be distinguished from nontraumatic atypical facial pain or "tic-douloureaux. " Our surgical experience managing chronic facial (trigeminal) pain is reviewed to provide insight into the success of our current algorithm for managing patients with chronic facial pain. Methods: We performed a retrospective review of nine consecutive patients operated for post-traumatic chronic trigeminal nerve pain. Most patients were women (mean age 41 years). Data evaluated included mechanism of nerve injury, physical exam, CT scans, computer-aided neurosensory testing, and diagnostic nerve blocks. Surgical management included hardware removal, neurolysis, and/or neuroma resection with nerve grafting when indicated. Primary outcome measurement included Likert pain scale score (range 0-10). Secondary outcome measurements included sensory exam, medication requirement, and return to work. Based on these outcome measures, results were defined as excellent, good, fair, or poor. Results: Five of the nine patients had excellent outcomes, one was good, two were fair, and one was poor. The one patient with a poor result had temporary improvements, but later returned to baseline. No patient was made symptomatically worse or had operative complications. Conclusions: Successful treatment of chronic, post-traumatic trigeminal nerve pain can be expected using an algorithm that measures sensory function of the involved trigeminal nerve branch. Then either preserves that function through neurolysis or reconstruction with a nerve graft, or eliminates that function through neuroma resection.
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