UC Irvine Health patient describes rare nerve condition, treatment that cured her excruciating pain

July 31, 2014


IN THE NEWS: Imagine living with pain so excruciating that the condition is known as the “suicide disease.”

UC Irvine Health patient Tyler Hatfield and neurosurgeon Mark Linskey appeared on The Doctors television show recently to discuss trigeminal neuralgia, a nerve abnormality often misdiagnosed and mistreated. The condition is caused when nerves to the face are pinched, often by a blood vessel, as they leave the patient’s brain. 

The teenager has been pain-free for nearly two years since Linskey performed surgery to untangle the nerves. Tyler said the pain was constant and kept her out of school for a year. The nerves emerge from behind the ear and may send shooting pain along three paths, above the eye, across the cheek and along the jaw. He said when untreated, the pain could come and go in a flash; there’s no way to predict when it will return.

When Linskey operated on Tyler, he found multiple blood vessels pressing on four separate nerves. After untangling the nerves, he wrapped each one in a Teflon mesh to insulate them from further interference. 

Before Tyler came to UC Irvine, several doctors told her she was imagining the pain or faking it to get attention. Linskey said it’s not unusual for physicians to misdiagnose the problem, as trigeminal neuralgia is rare in children and teens.

See also: Virginia teen improving after trigeminal neuralgia surgery ›

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