Mechanisms and predictors of chronic facial pain in lateral medullary infarction

Ann Neurol. 2001 Apr;49(4):493-500.


The purpose of this study was to identify clinical predictors and anatomical structures involved in patients with pain after dorsolateral medullary infarction. Eight out of 12 patients (67%) developed poststroke pain within 12 days to 24 months after infarction. The pain occurred in the ipsilateral face (6 patients) and/or the contralateral limbs and trunk (5 patients, 3 of whom also had facial pain). Ipsilateral facial pain was significantly correlated with lower medullary lesions, including those of the spinal trigeminal tract and/or nucleus, as documented by magnetic resonance imaging. The R2 blink reflex component was abnormal only in patients with facial pain. Likewise, pain and temperature sensation in the ipsilateral face was decreased in all patients with facial pain but not in patients without pain. Ipsilateral touch sensation in the face was also decreased in all patients with facial pain, but the lesions revealed on magnetic resonance imaging did not involve the principal sensory nucleus of the fifth cranial nerve, and the R1 blink reflex latencies were normal. Although facial pain was correlated with lesions of the spinal trigeminal tract and/or nucleus, none of the lesions involved the subnucleus caudalis, which contains most nociceptive neurons. These findings suggest that facial pain after medullary infarction is due to lesions of the lower spinal trigeminal tract (axons of primary afferent neurons), leading to deafferentation of spinal trigeminal nucleus neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cerebral Infarction / pathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Facial Pain / pathology
  • Facial Pain / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Medulla Oblongata / pathology*
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiopathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests