Trigeminal Neuralgia


What would you do if simple everyday tasks like eating, talking, smiling, and even brushing your teeth left you in agonizing pain?

This was Ann Voynow’s reality. The pain never lessened, but became something that she expected as she dealt with it for eight years. Ann was suffering from a rare condition known as trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve, one of the most prominent nerves in the head. Patients who are diagnosed with this condition frequently experience intense shocks of pain in their face that can last anywhere from a few seconds to two minutes at a time.

Eventually, the pain became too much and Ann realized that her medications were no longer effective; she needed to take stronger action against the pain. Finally, after receiving the recommendation from several neurologists, Ann visited John Y.K. Lee, MD, a Penn Medicine neurosurgeon specializing in cranial nerve surgery.

After meeting with Ann, Dr. Lee recommended Microvascular Decompression (MVD), a surgical procedure in which Dr. Lee and his team open the skull to expose the nerve and insert a tiny sponge between the compressing vessel and the trigeminal nerve. This separates the nerve from the pulsating pressure of the blood vessel, allowing the trigeminal nerve to recover, and eventually alleviating the pain. MVD is a procedure that can be highly effective and often does not cause damage to the nerve. 

“While the idea of having a hole drilled into my skull was terrifying, the prospect of possibly being pain free was very exciting,” says Ann.

Although Ann was nervous about the procedure at first, she decided to have the surgery on April 19, 2016; and she’s been pain free ever since. She credits Dr. Lee and his team for helping to make her surgery such a huge success. 

“Everyone on Dr. Lee’s surgical team was extremely professional and compassionate. All of my questions were addressed completely. It was obvious that everyone was working toward the best possible outcome for me. I can’t thank Dr. Lee enough for the surgery that completely changed my life.  I feel like a new person!”

-Ann Voynow

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