Introduction: The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of persistent trigeminal artery (PTA) associated with trigeminal neuralgia (TN).
Methods: From January 1998 to January 2004, 288 MRI scans of patients examined for trigeminal deficits were retrospectively evaluated. MRI was performed at 1.5 T. Scan protocols included cerebral TSE T2-weighted imaging, contrast enhanced SE T1-weighted imaging and thin-section 3D T2-weighted imaging of the temporal bones, 3D TOF pre- and postcontrast MR angiography. TN was defined as episodes of intense stabbing, electric shock-like pain in areas of the face supplied by the trigeminal branches. Neurovascular compression (NVC) was assumed to be present if the patient showed clinical features of TN, if there was contact between an artery and the trigeminal nerve on the affected side, and if other pathology had been excluded. The prevalence and confidence intervals were calculated (95% CI of the prevalence was based on the exact binomial distribution).
Results: Of 288 patients, 136 matched the criteria for TN. In this series a PTA was detected in three patients, which in all patients was on the same side as the TN. The prevalence of a PTA in patients presenting with TN was 2.2% (CI 0.005-0.06).
Conclusion: Previous studies have shown PTA as an incidental finding in 0.1-0.6% of cerebral angiograms. The prevalence of a PTA in patients with TN was 2.2%. With respect to the clinical significance, a PTA has to be considered in TN and the diagnosis of a PTA can easily be made using MR imaging/angiography.