With quick action from a U expert, man finds almost immediate relief from a painful disorder
By the time Milton Oran arrived at the University of Minnesota-affiliated Neurosurgery Clinic in early October 2013, he was in so much pain that he could barely speak.
The 88-year-old Oran, a retired mechanical engineer, had been diagnosed four years earlier with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic disorder of the facial nerve. In its classic form, trigeminal neuralgia causes intense, sudden electric shock-like pain. Oran’s condition had been kept largely under control with medication, but the nerve had started acting up, this time more severely than ever.
Oran’s daughter-in-law Lesley Oran rushed him to the ER at Fairview Southdale Hospital. “I didn’t think I was going to get him there, it was so bad,” she says.
He was given painkillers, which helped briefly but didn’t address the underlying disorder. By now dehydrated and weak, Oran was referred to Stephen J. Haines, M.D., a neurosurgeon at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview and University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.
Although Haines has particular expertise in trigeminal neuralgia—he performs procedures to treat the condition several times each week—the doctor was faced with a particular dilemma: how to treat a patient who couldn’t communicate or help make decisions.
“We treat a lot of people,” says Haines, who also leads the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Neurosurgery Department and holds the Lyle A. French Chair in Neurosurgery. “Most of them are able to talk to us and participate in the decision-making actively. It’s not very often that it’s so disabling that you can’t interact with the person.”
Haines first ruled out intracranial surgery, the most invasive option, for his older patient. Of the various outpatient procedures, all of which cause a mild injury to the nerve to reduce its ability to transmit pain signals, Haines determined that balloon compression was the best choice. He performed the procedure that afternoon, and by 8 p.m., Oran was eating, talking, and smiling again.
“It was immediate,” says Lesley Oran. “Even in the recovery room, when we walked in, he was in no pain, and he was feeling great. He was a new man.”
Oran had virtually no complications of recovery to speak of and, best of all, no longer has to take the powerful antiseizure medications typically used to treat his condition.
“I went home and that was it,” he says. “I’m very thankful for Lesley, and I’m very thankful for Dr. Haines. May he live a long and happy life!”