Merck Manual

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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.

    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.

    A similar procedure is done for the glossopharyngeal nerve in people with glossopharyngeal neuralgia.