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April 21, 2021

A Delicate Surgery That Cures Debilitating Facial Spasms | Dr. Neil A. Martin

by Anthony Effinger

The Think Neuro podcast from Pacific Neuroscience Institute takes you into the clinic, operating room and laboratory with doctors and surgeons who are tackling the most challenging brain diseases and disorders. Host: Anthony Effinger

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Episode 15: Show Notes

Imagine a twitch that won’t go away. Worse yet, imagine that twitch is in your face. That’s what sufferers of hemifacial spasms experience, day in and day out.

The spasms originate deep in the brain, where it connects with the spinal cord. In this crowded channel, the nerves that control facial muscles ride close by blood vessels. As those vessels age, they can sag and come into contact with one of the facial nerves. The pulsing of blood compresses the nerve, 70 times a minute, 24-hours a day, eventually wearing down the insulation on the nerve, causing it to misfire and creating uncontrollable contractions in the face.

Dr. Neil Martin, a neurosurgeon, treats hemifacial spasm by creating a nickel-sized opening in the back of the skull and separating the nerve and the intruding vessel. The procedure takes about 90 minutes, and many patients get immediate relief.

Listen to this episode to learn how the procedure works and how Dr. Martin uses minimally invasive techniques at PNI to treat other, related conditions.

About Dr. Martin

Neil Martin MD

Neil A. Martin, MD, is a neurosurgeon at Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI) and Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. As Regional Medical Director of Neuroscience for Providence Southern California, he helps oversee and direct neuroscience activities of the 13 Providence ministries across Los Angeles and Orange counties and in the High Desert. Dr. Martin’s neurosurgical practice at PNI focuses on patients with facial pain syndromes such as trigeminal neuralgia, skull base tumors, aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations.

Check Out More Think Neuro Podcast Episodes

About the Author

Anthony Effinger

Anthony Effinger

Think Neuro's host is Anthony Effinger, an award-winning journalist who is fascinated with neuroscience and the workings of the brain. Anthony spent 24 years at Bloomberg News, where he covered all aspects of finance, with forays into science and health. In 2006, the Association of Health Care Journalists awarded him first prize for Playing the Odds, an in-depth piece on the changing strategies used to treat prostate cancer. These days, he is a staff writer at Willamette Week, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Last updated: May 19th, 2023