Glossopharyngeal neuralgia (GPN), or better named vago-glossopharyngeal neuralgia (VGPN), is a rare disorder amounting to 1 % of the incidence of trigeminal neuralgia (TN). Pain is paroxysmal, of the electrical shooting type, and mainly provoked by stimulation of the pharynx or deep throat, especially during swallowing. Due to its rarity, VGPN is often misdiagnosed. The front line of medical treatment is based on anticonvulsants. Surgery should be considered when the pain is refractory to medications. In most patients, the cause is neurovascular conflict on root entry zone (REZ) or midcistern portion, of the IXth and/or Xth cranial nerves. Compressive vessels can be evidenced by means of a high sensibility and a high specificity resolution MR imaging in most centers.
Present consensus is that the first option of neurosurgical treatment be microvascular decompression. In patients with precarious general conditions, stereotactic radiosurgery may be considered. Also, thermo-rhizotomy at the pars nervosa of foramen jugularis or tractotomy-nucleotomy at brainstem may be alternatives, but these methods entail a significant risk of deficits.
In this article, the authors reviewed the main literature series on neurosurgical treatments of this disease.