Imaging of Neurovascular Compression Syndromes: Trigeminal Neuralgia, Hemifacial Spasm, Vestibular Paroxysmia, and Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2016 Aug;37(8):1384-92. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A4683. Epub 2016 Feb 18.


Neurovascular compression syndromes are usually caused by arteries that directly contact the cisternal portion of a cranial nerve. Not all cases of neurovascular contact are clinically symptomatic. The transition zone between the central and peripheral myelin is the most vulnerable region for symptomatic neurovascular compression syndromes. Trigeminal neuralgia (cranial nerve V) has an incidence of 4-20/100,000, a transition zone of 4 mm, with symptomatic neurovascular compression typically proximal. Hemifacial spasm (cranial nerve VII) has an incidence of 1/100,000, a transition zone of 2.5 mm, with symptomatic neurovascular compression typically proximal. Vestibular paroxysmia (cranial nerve VIII) has an unknown incidence, a transition zone of 11 mm, with symptomatic neurovascular compression typically at the internal auditory canal. Glossopharyngeal neuralgia (cranial nerve IX) has an incidence of 0.5/100,000, a transition zone of 1.5 mm, with symptomatic neurovascular compression typically proximal. The transition zone overlaps the root entry zone close to the brain stem in cranial nerves V, VII, and IX, yet it is more distal and does not overlap the root entry zone in cranial nerve VIII. Although symptomatic neurovascular compression syndromes may also occur if the neurovascular contact is outside the transition zone, symptomatic neurovascular compression syndromes are more common if the neurovascular contact occurs at the transition zone or central myelin section, in particular when associated with nerve displacement and atrophy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Glossopharyngeal Nerve Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hemifacial Spasm / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / etiology
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia / diagnostic imaging*