Aims: We conducted a cross-sectional study to re-examine the clinical profile of patients with a clinical diagnosis of classical trigeminal neuralgia (CTN).
Methods: Inclusion criteria consisted of the International Headache Society's published classification of CTN. For the specific purposes of the study, features such as autonomic signs, persistent background pain, attack durations of >2 minutes and reports of pain-related awakening were included. The demographic and clinical phenotype of each patient were carefully recorded for analysis.
Results: The study cohort consisted of 81 patients and based on reported attack duration these were divided into short (≤ 2 minutes, n = 61) and long (> 2 minutes, n = 20) groups for further analysis. The group with short attack duration neatly fit most of the criteria for CTN while the long attack group presents a more challenging diagnosis. There were no significant differences in pain severity, quality and location between the short and long attack groups. The frequency of persistent background pain was significantly higher in the long (70%) compared to the short attack group (29.5%, p = 0.001). There were significantly more reports of pain-related awakenings in the long (55%) than in the short attack groups (29.5%, p = 0.04). There were no significant differences in the frequency of autonomic signs between the short (21.3%) and long attack groups (40%, p = 0.1). In the short attack group, the presence of autonomic signs was significantly associated with longer disease duration, increased pain-related awakenings, and a reduced prognosis.
Conclusion: There are clear diagnostic criteria for CTN but often patients present with features, such as long pain attacks, that challenge such accepted criteria. In our cohort the clinical phenotype of trigeminal, neuralgiform pain with or without autonomic signs and background pain was observed across both short and long attack groups and the clinical implications of this are discussed.
Keywords: SUNA; Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia; autonomic signs; neuropathic pain.
© International Headache Society 2015.