HUNTINGTON, NY – A Huntington Hospital neurosurgeon ended more than 20 years of suffering for an East Northport man by performing microvascular decompression (MVD), a surgical procedure to relieve pain symptoms caused by compression of the nerve by an artery or vein, the North Shore-LIJ Health System announced today.
Roger Borg is finally pain free thanks to surgery performed by Robert G. Kerr, MD, PhD, attending neurosurgeon at Huntington Hospital. Mr. Borg lived every day with constant aching pain in his head and face and knew that at any moment, he could experience a severe jolt of additional pain that feels like something between an electric shock and a searing burn.
Starting in his early 20s, Mr. Borg experienced brief, severe stabbing pain on the right side of his head, which he shrugged off. Things continued to worsen and he was taking medication to relieve his symptoms. A 2002 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test did not detect anything abnormal. In July 2013, the stabbing pain became more constant, making it difficult for Mr. Borg to perform his job as an operating engineer at LaGuardia Airport.
Mr. Borg sought medical attention from a number of physicians, including dentists and neurologists, but was not given a proper diagnosis until he met with Shalini Patcha, MD, Huntington’s attending neurologist. Dr. Patcha diagnosed Mr. Borg with trigeminal neuralgia, a condition that is characterized by intermittent, shooting pain that usually occurs on one side of the face.
“Trigeminal neuralgia affects the trigeminal nerve, one of the largest nerves in the head,” said Dr. Patcha. “The trigeminal nerve sends impulses of touch, pain, pressure, and temperature to the brain from the face, jaw, gums, forehead, and around the eyes. In Mr. Borg’s case, we first tried treating him with appropriate medication. While that initially helped alleviate symptoms, the positive effect wore off over time. We then considered him to be a good candidate for surgery.”
The most common cause of trigeminal neuralgia is compression of the trigeminal nerve by an artery, vein or a combination of both. Each heartbeat essentially creates a mini concussion injury to the nerve. Over time, the chronic injury and inflammation of the nerve causes the insulation around individual nerve fibers to become frayed. As a result, normal stimulation can “short circuit” to the nerves that signal pain.
The MVD procedure was the ticket to relief.
“The surgery is performed through a small opening in the skull – about the size of a quarter,” said Dr. Kerr. “With the assistance of a high powered surgical microscope and sometimes an endoscope, it is possible to delicately dissect and move the artery and vein located right against the brainstem, which is pressed into the side of the nerve. A small Teflon sponge is then inserted between the compressing vessel and the trigeminal nerve. The sponge helps to isolate the nerve from the pressure of the blood vessel, relieving pain symptoms and allowing the nerve to heal.”
Immediately after surgery, Mr. Borg’s pain disappeared.
“There’s no more sharp, stabbing pain and I am currently off medications that I had taken for years,” Mr. Borg said. “I feel that this experience had a real positive effect on my life. I can finally go about my daily activities without worrying about pain and as such, I am able to do my job and certainly look forward to returning in June.”
For an appointment with Dr. Patcha, please call 631-351-5757. For an appointment with Dr. Kerr, please call 631-351-4840.
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