Antidepressants help manage trigeminal nerve injuries

Pharmacologic management can be used to treat trigeminal nerve injury pain after dental implant surgery, according to a study in the International Journal of Prosthodontics (July/August 2010, Vol. 23:4, pp. 342-346).

Injuries to the trigeminal nerve are a common postoperative complication of dental implant surgery, researchers from Yonsei University in Korea noted. Usually, the altered sensation and neuropathic pain caused by the nerve injury is temporary, but a permanent neurosensory disorder can sometimes occur. Surgery is commonly used to treat this condition but is associated with some complications and yields a relatively low success rate.

The study evaluated 85 patients who visited a temporomandibular joint and orofacial pain clinic with a history of trigeminal nerve injury pain after dental implant surgery. The researchers prescribed various medications for 12 weeks. The patients' pain characteristics, average percentage of pain reduction, and pain-relieving factors were investigated prospectively.

Patients who took anticonvulsants and antidepressants for at least 12 weeks reported a mean reduction in pain of 24.8%, the researchers found. Patients who experienced an altered sensation and neuropathic pain for more than one year also reported a reduction in pain and discomfort, with an average decrease of 17.1%. In addition, the researchers noted that early treatment using medications had a significant effect on reducing the level of pain and discomfort.

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