Trigeminocardiac reflex during surgery in the cerebellopontine angle

J Neurosurg. 1999 Feb;90(2):215-20. doi: 10.3171/jns.1999.90.2.0215.


Object: In different experimental studies authors have analyzed the autonomic responses elicited by the electrical, mechanical, or chemical stimulation of the trigeminal nerve system. The trigeminocardiac reflex (TCR) is a well-recognized phenomenon that consists of bradycardia, arterial hypotension, apnea, and gastric hypermotility. It occurs during ocular surgery and during other manipulations in and around the orbit. Thus far, it has not been shown that central stimulation of the trigeminal nerve can also cause this reflex.

Methods: The TCR was defined as clinical hypotension with a drop in mean arterial blood pressure (MABP) of more than 20% and bradycardia lower than 60 beats/minute. Pre-, intra-, and postoperative heart rate (HR) and MABP were reviewed retrospectively in 125 patients who underwent surgery for tumors of the cerebellopontine angle (CPA), and they were divided into two groups on the basis of the occurrence of the TCR during surgery. Of the 125 patients, 14 (11%) showed evidence of the TCR during dissection of the tumor near the trigeminal nerve at the brainstem. Their HRs fell 38% and their MABPs fell 48% during operative procedures as compared with preoperative levels. After cessation of manipulation, the HRs and the MABPs returned to preoperative levels. Risk factors for the occurrence of the TCR were compared with results from the literature.

Conclusions: The authors' results show the possibility of occurrence of a TCR during manipulation of the central part of the trigeminal nerve when performing surgery in the CPA.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Bradycardia / etiology
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Cerebellopontine Angle*
  • Female
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypotension / etiology
  • Intraoperative Complications / etiology
  • Intraoperative Period
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiopathology*