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Emergency Department – Break-through Trigeminal Neuralgia Pain

This week the Association launched our Emergency Department plastic wallet cards – to assist sufferers with communicating when attending a hospital emergency department with break-through trigeminal neuralgia pain

The following study highlights why this is such an important issue – and very relevant to all of our sufferers

Treatment of acute exacerbations of trigeminal neuralgia in the emergency department: A retrospective case series

Affiliations

  • 1Department of Neurology, Centro Hospitalar Universitário de São João, Porto, Portugal.
  • 2Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Mental Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.

Abstract

Objective: To evaluate the response to treatment of acute trigeminal neuralgia (TN) exacerbations in the emergency department (ED).

Background: TN is characterized by recurrent and intense pain paroxysms. Some patients experience severe acute exacerbations requiring ED presentation. The optimal management of these episodes is not well established.

Methods: We present a case series of TN exacerbations in adults who presented to the ED of a tertiary centre from January 2008 to December 2020. We analysed demographic and clinical data, including pharmacological management in the ED. The primary outcome was pain relief, classified into “no relief,” “partial relief,” and “satisfactory relief” based on the qualitative description in the ED’s records.

Results: Ultimately 197 crisis episodes corresponding to 140 patients were included. Most were women (61%, 121/197) with a median age of 63 years (interquartile range: 52-73). Acute TN exacerbations were treated with opioids in 78% (108/139) of crisis episodes, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in 42% (58/139), corticosteroids in 21% (29/139), intravenous phenytoin in 18% (25/139), and intravenous lidocaine in 6% (8/139). Of the 108 cases treated with opioids, 78 (72%) required additional drugs for pain management. Intravenous phenytoin allowed satisfactory pain relief in 64% of cases.

Conclusion: In our sample, opioids were the most used therapeutic approach in acute TN exacerbations despite their low efficacy and subsequent need for further drug treatment in most cases. Most crisis episodes managed with intravenous phenytoin reached total pain relief. Prospective studies are needed to guide the treatment of acute exacerbations of TN.

Keywords: emergency department; exacerbation; lidocaine; opioids; phenytoin; trigeminal neuralgia.

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References

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