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Eur J Radiol. 2010 May;74(2):323-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2010.02.006. Epub 2010 Mar 12.

Imaging the trigeminal nerve.

Author information

1
Radiology Department, Instituto Português de Oncologia Francisco Gentil, Centro de Lisboa, Rua Prof. Lima Basto, 1093, Lisboa, Portugal. borgalexandra@gmail.com

Abstract

Of all cranial nerves, the trigeminal nerve is the largest and the most widely distributed in the supra-hyoid neck. It provides sensory input from the face and motor innervation to the muscles of mastication. In order to adequately image the full course of the trigeminal nerve and its main branches a detailed knowledge of neuroanatomy and imaging technique is required. Although the main trunk of the trigeminal nerve is consistently seen on conventional brain studies, high-resolution tailored imaging is mandatory to depict smaller nerve branches and subtle pathologic processes. Increasing developments in imaging technique made possible isotropic sub-milimetric images and curved reconstructions of cranial nerves and their branches and led to an increasing recognition of symptomatic trigeminal neuropathies. Whereas MRI has a higher diagnostic yield in patients with trigeminal neuropathy, CT is still required to demonstrate the bony anatomy of the skull base and is the modality of choice in the context of traumatic injury to the nerve. Imaging of the trigeminal nerve is particularly cumbersome as its long course from the brainstem nuclei to the peripheral branches and its rich anastomotic network impede, in most cases, a topographic approach. Therefore, except in cases of classic trigeminal neuralgia, in which imaging studies can be tailored to the root entry zone, the full course of the trigeminal nerve has to be imaged. This article provides an update in the most recent advances on MR imaging technique and a segmental imaging approach to the most common pathologic processes affecting the trigeminal nerve.

PMID:
20227216
DOI:
10.1016/j.ejrad.2010.02.006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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