Objective: To estimate the lifetime prevalence of trigeminal neuralgia (TN) and persistent idiopathic facial pain (PIFP) in a population-based sample in Germany.
Methods: A total of 3336 responders of 6000 contacted inhabitants of the city of Essen in Germany were screened using a self-assessment questionnaire. 327 individuals, who reported recurrent facial pain and randomly selected 150 (5% of 3009) screening negative subjects, received a phone interview by one of six neurologists and if necessary a face-to-face examination. Those with suspected TN or PIFP following the phone interview underwent neurological examination by two neurologists who were unaware of the presumed diagnosis. A random group of 25 (10% of 247) phone interview negative subjects was examined face-to-face. All suspected cases of PIFP received otorhinolaryngological examination and diagnostic cranial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In TN patients the number of vessel-nerve contacts was determined by thin-slice cranial MRI.
Results: Lifetime prevalence of TN was estimated to be 0.3% [10 of 3336; 95% CI 0.1-0.5%], of PIFP 0.03% [1 of 3336; 95% CI < 0.08%]. Thin-slice cranial MRI detected five vessel-nerve contacts and no symptomatic lesions in the 10 TN patients.
Conclusions: This large population-based study revealed that TN and PIFP are rare facial pain disorders.