The pathogenesis of trigeminal neuralgia remains largely unknown. "Peripheral" as well as "central" causes have been suggested. To investigate the role of serotonergic, noradrenergic, dopaminergic, and peptidergic systems, we determined the concentrations of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and their breakdown product, vanillylmandelic acid, in the cerebrospinal fluid of 16 patients (55.3 ±± 8.3 years) with trigeminal neuralgia. As a marker for the dopaminergic system, we determined cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of dopamine and its metabolite, homovanillic acid. As a marker for the serotonergic system, we measured cerebrospinal fluid levels of the serotonin metabolite, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid. In addition, levels of the neuropeptides, substance P and somatostatin, were determined.
The concentration of norepinephrine (P<0.01) and its metabolite, vanillylmandelic acid, (P<0.05) were significantly decreased in our patients. The level of the dopamine metabolite, homovanillic acid, was also significantly reduced (P<0.01). Also significantly decreased was 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (P<0.01). Substance P was significantly elevated (P<0.05). Somatostatin was significantly decreased (P<0.05).
We hypothesize that the sum of complex neurochemical changes plays a role in the pathogenesis of trigeminal neuralgia. The elevated substance P could support the concept of a neurogenic inflammation in the trigeminovascular system, whereas changes in the monoaminergic transmitters and their metabolites seem to reflect a more central dysfunction possibly due to a longer duration of the disease and an accompanying depression.