✓ It is generally accepted that hemifacial spasm (HFS) and trigeminal neuralgia are caused by compression of the facial nerve (seventh cranial nerve) or the trigeminal nerve (fifth cranial nerve) at the nerve's root exit (or entry) zone (REZ); thus, neurosurgeons generally perform neurovascular decompression at the REZ. Neurosurgeons tend to ignore vascular compression at distal portions of the seventh cranial nerve, even when found incidentally while performing neurovascular decompression at the REZ of that nerve, because compression of distal portions of the seventh cranial nerve has not been regarded as a cause of HFS. Recently the authors treated seven cases of HFS in which compression of the distal portion of the seventh cranial nerve produced symptoms. The anterior inferior cerebellar artery (AICA) was the offending vessel in five of these cases. Great care must be taken not to stretch the internal auditory arteries during manipulation of the AICA because these small arteries are quite vulnerable to surgical manipulation and the patient may experience hearing loss postoperatively.
It must be kept in mind that compression of distal portions of the seventh cranial nerve may be responsible for HFS in cases in which neurovascular compression at the REZ is not confirmed intraoperatively and in cases in which neurovascular decompression at the nerve's REZ does not cure HFS. Surgical procedures for decompression of the distal portion of the seventh cranial nerve as well as decompression at the REZ should be performed when a deep vascular groove is noticed at the distal site of compression of the nerve.