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Vol. 71, No. 3
ISSN: 1488-2159
March 2005


Iatrogenic Paresthesia in the Third Division of the Trigeminal Nerve: 12 Years of Clinical Experience


• René Caissie, DMD, MSc •
• Jacques Goulet, DMD, FRCD(C) •
• Michel Fortin, DMD, PhD, FRCD(C) •
• Domenic Morielli, BSc, DDS •

A b s t r a c t

Background: Iatrogenic paresthesia in the third division of the trigeminal nerve remains a complex clinical problem with major medicolegal implications. However, most lawsuits can be prevented through better planning of procedures and by obtaining informed consent. The purpose of this article is to present the authors' clinical experience over the past 12 years, to review the principles of prevention and management of trigeminal paresthesia and to highlight the resulting medicolegal implications.

Methods: The files of all 165 patients referred to the oral and maxillofacial surgery department for evaluation of iatrogenic paresthesia in the third division of the trigeminal nerve were reviewed. The characteristics of the subgroup of patients who had taken an attending dentist to court were compared with those of the other patients.

Results: Surgical extraction of impacted molars was the main cause of paresthesia in 109 (66%) of the 165 subjects. The alveolar nerve was affected in 89 (54%) subjects, the lingual nerve in 67 (41%) subjects, and both nerves were affected in 9 (5%) subjects. There were more female than male patients (ratio 2.2:1).

Lawsuits were initiated in 33 (20%) of the cases; patients who initiated lawsuits were younger, were more likely to have experienced anesthesia and were more likely to need microsurgery (all p < 0.001). Poor surgical planning and lack of informed consent were the most common errors on the part of the dentists.

Conclusions: An accurate evaluation of surgical indications and risk, good surgical technique, preoperative informed consent and sufficient postoperative follow-up should help to reduce the frequency of neurosensory deficits after dental treatment and attendant lawsuits.


MeSH Key Words: molar, third/surgery; postoperative complications; sensation; trigeminal nerve/injuries
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