Altered autonomic nervous system reactivity to pain in trigeminal neuralgia
Léonard, Guillaume; Chalaye, Philippe; Goffaux, Philippe; Mathieu, David; Gaumond, Isabelle; Marchand, Serge
Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Sherbrooke. Centre de recherche sur le vieillissement
Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke. Centre de recherche
BACKGROUND: In the last two decades, there has been increasing evidence to suggest that trigeminal neuralgia (TN) may be linked to a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The aim of the present study was to formally test this hypothesis by comparing the reactivity of the ANS to experimental pain in a population of TN patients and healthy controls. METHODS: Twelve patients diagnosed with classical TN and 12 healthy controls participated in the study. Cardiac activity was assessed while participants were instructed to rest and again during a cold pressor test (CPT). Heart rate variability analyses were performed off-line to obtain parasympathetic (high-frequency) and sympathetic (low-frequency) indices. RESULTS: At baseline, ANS measures did not differ between healthy controls and TN patients, and both groups showed a similar increase in heart rate during the CPT (all p-values > .05). However, TN patients showed a greater increase in cardiac sympathetic activity and a greater decrease in cardiac parasympathetic activity during CPT compared to healthy controls (all p-values < .05). Importantly, changes in sympathetic reactivity, from baseline to CPT, were negatively associated with the number of pain paroxysms experienced each day by TN patients in the preceding week (r = -.58, p < .05). CONCLUSION: These results suggest that TN, like many other short-lasting, unilateral facial pain conditions, is linked to ANS alterations. Future studies are required to determine if the altered ANS response observed in TN patients is a cause or a consequence of TN pain.