Purpose: To evaluate the dimension and duration of pain reduction in patients with facial neuralgias after localization, decortication, and curettage of histologically confirmed inflammatory jawbone lesions of the newly identified form of alveolar avascular osteonecrosis called neuralgia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis (NICO).
Materials and methods: One hundred ninety patients who could be located retrospectively and who had histories of jawbone curettage for chronic "idiopathic" facial pain, either trigeminal neuralgia (TN) or atypical facial neuralgia/pain (AFN), were identified through surgical pathology reports from four institutions. To assess pain reduction after jawbone surgery, these patients were mailed a modified McGill Pain Survey by investigators with whom they had had no previous professional contact. Patient demographics and clinicopathologic characteristics were also reviewed through surgical pathology specimens and reports.
Results: More than two thirds of the respondents to whom the questionnaire was mailed experienced complete or almost complete disappearance of neuralgic pain immediately or shortly after curettage of jawbone osteonecrosis (NICO), regardless of whether they had previously been diagnosed with TN or AFN. Thirty percent, however, experienced local recurrence of jaw inflammation and facial pain, and one third developed at least one and as many as 12 additional foci of histologically confirmed osteonecrosis. Despite this, however, the long-term (average, 4.6 years) abatement of neuralgic pain was total or almost total in 74% of treated patients.
Conclusions: Neuraglia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis appears to be associated with at least some cases of facial neuralgia, or with a pain so similar as to be clinically indistinguishable. Decortication and curettage dramatically reduces or eliminates this intense pain in two of every three patients, although multiple surgeries may be required, and additional sites of osteonecrosis may occur. It is recommended that NICO be included in the differential diagnosis of idiopathic facial pain syndromes.