The treatment of trigeminal neuralgia has a long history. The first (unsuccessful) medical treatment was provided by the famous British philosopher and physician John Locke to the wife of the British ambassador to France in 1677 – he gave her laxatives! The first successful medication was Dilantin introduced in 1942. The first neurosurgeon, Sir Victor Horsley, tried cutting the nerve and by the 1920’s neurosurgeons began routinely treating trigeminal neuralgia by cutting portions of the nerve. It became clear that the nerve was often compressed by a blood vessel when surgeons explored the nerve in preparation to cut it. The suggestion was then advanced that the condition could be treated by decompressing the nerve instead of cutting it and the Microvascular Decompression operation was born.
TN occurs most often in people over age 50, although it can occur at any age, including infancy. The incidence of newly diagnosed cases of TN in the United States population averages approximately per 100,000 individuals (per year) and the average for women is slightly higher than for men. If people have TN for an average of 8 years, then a rough estimate of prevalence in United States is 108,000. The definition of a rare disease in the United States is one that affects fewer than 200,000 at any one time. Thus, TN is a rare disease.