Health Team

Procedure Zaps Away Facial Nerve Pain

Posted June 4, 2007

— Health officials are diagnosed with a medical condition where they feel like they suffer an electrical shock to their face, but there's a new treatment to kill the pain.

It was 17 years ago when Pat Mooney first felt the incredible pain.

"It was like an electric circuit in the face," Mooney said.

Mooney was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia. About 45,000 Americans suffer from the disorder, which causes nerves in the face to send intense pain signals to the brain for no reason.

"It was like a firecracker going off in my cheek," he said.

Health officials said an episode can last up to a minute and they are sporadic. They could occur everyday and then nothing would happen for weeks. No one knows what causes the condition.

For years, Mooney could dull the pain with regular medication, but eventually the medication stopped working as the pain got worse and more frequent.

One option is brain surgery, where doctors can go in and cut around the nerve. Another option involves a machine, which shoots laser-guided radiation through the brain. The machine moves around the head sending beams of radiation directly onto the trigeminal nerve.

"We destroy the ability of the nerve to carry that pain directly to the brain," said Dr. Antonio DeSalles, of UCLA Neurosurgery. "It stops the pain altogether in a great majority of the patients."

After undergoing the procedure, Mooney has not had an episode in five months.

"When you are pain-free, it feels so good," he said.

In a few patients, the condition does return and a second procedure is needed.


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  • Scarecrow Cow Jun 5, 2007

    I can't even imagine what it must be like to live with that sort of pain. I'm so glad there's help available now.

  • anti-Hans Jun 5, 2007

    The note here said my email address would appear, but it did not. Contact me at for this information.

  • anti-Hans Jun 5, 2007

    My step daughter also has TGN, and it is unbelievable. She was taking massive amounts of drugs to try to combat the pain, and while it helped some, it would still re-occur. We looked into the Microvascular Decompression and other invasive procedures, but they all had drawbacks.

    We finally stumbled into something that has WORKED and she is now completely off the drugs and pain free for a couple years now. I was very skeptical when I heard the solution, but the proof is in the results. She went to a speiclized chiropractor with this experience, and he has been able to keep her pain free. There are no risks, no side effects, and this doctor has truly been a blessing.

    Feel free to contact me and I will be happy to pass along this information.

  • PAINFREE Jun 5, 2007

    I suffered with trigeminal neuralgia for three years, and can attest to the fact that it is the world's most severe pain. My pain was eliminated by surgery, microvascular decompression, performed at Duke Hospital. Since January 2003, I have been pain-free. There is a support group which has a website and meets quarterly in Raleigh. Information about meetings is on the website. I urge all who suffer from any type of facial pain to check it out and join us for meetings. You are not alone! The next one is August 11. The website is The procedure referred in the story is NOT the only possible solution, but I hope it works well for those for whom it is appropriate. Life is so much sweeter without the pain, which is so debilitating.

  • rmgirl Jun 5, 2007

    I SUFFER with this pain and generalized "Atypical Facial Pain" (as if any facial pain is typical). I am going to contact my doctor to see if I am a candidate. Thanks for the information.