Trigeminal Nerve Block (TNB)

What is a Trigeminal Nerve Block?

A trigeminal nerve block is an injection of medication anesthetic and a small amount of steroids to help relieve headaches or facial pain.

 

What is the Trigeminal Nerve?

The trigeminal nerve is one of the 12 cranial nerves which is responsible for carrying sensation from the face as well as providing various facial muscular functions such as chewing. The nerve runs from the brainstem, branching into three divisions that supply feeling to the forehead, the cheek and the lower jaw. Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder of this nerve that causes shooting pain to one side of the face in one or any combination of these three areas.  Trigeminal neuralgia is the most common diagnosis when this nerve block is utilized. Additionally, there is now a great deal of evidence that trigeminal nerve blocks can be of significant help in terminating attacks of severe headaches.

 

How is the trigeminal nerve block performed?

The patient is first asked to lay on their back in order for their skin to be prepped with an antiseptic at the entry point. The physician will then direct a guide needle toward the intended target area. A local anesthetic and a steroid (Cortisone) will be administered in close proximity to the nerve to block signals from reaching the brain. The steroid serves as an anti-inflammatory.

 

How quickly can relief occur?

Some patients report pain relief immediately after the injection, but the pain may return a few hours later as the anesthetic wears off. Longer term relief usually begins in two to three days, once the steroid begins to work. The duration of pain relief is different for each patient. Some may be pain-free for days or weeks. Usually patients need a series of injections to continue to experience pain relief. The relief tends to last longer with each subsequent treatment.

 

Are there any risks involved with the trigeminal nerve block?

This procedure is safe. With any procedure, however, there are risks, side effects and possibility of complications. The most common side effect is temporary pain at the injection site. Other less common risks include bleeding, infection, or injection into blood vessels. Serious side effects and complications are uncommon.