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Taking the Pressure Off a Nerve

Taking the Pressure Off a Nerve
Taking the Pressure Off a Nerve

When pain results from an abnormally positioned artery pressing on a cranial nerve, the pain can be relieved by a surgical procedure called vascular decompression. The procedure for the glossopharyngeal nerve in people with glossopharyngeal neuralgia is similar to that for the trigeminal nerve (shown below). If the trigeminal nerve is compressed, an area on the back of the head is shaved, and an incision is made. The surgeon cuts a small hole in the skull and lifts the edge of the brain to expose the nerve. Then the surgeon separates the artery from the nerve and places a small sponge between them. A general anesthetic is required, but the risk of side effects from the procedure is small. Usually, this procedure relieves the pain.