Peter J. Jannetta

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Peter Joseph Jannetta (April 5, 1932 – April 11, 2016) was an American neurosurgeon known for devising microvascular decompression, a surgical procedure to treat trigeminal neuralgia. At the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, he was the first Walter Dandy Professor of Neurological Surgery.


Born in Philadelphia, Jannetta graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an undergraduate degree and a medical degree. He stayed at Penn for training as a general surgeon, then completed a National Institutes of Health fellowship in neurophysiology before training as a neurosurgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles.[1]

During his residency at UCLA, Jannetta was in the laboratory dissecting a set of cranial nerves when he noticed that a blood vessel was unexpectedly pressing on one of the nerves. Jannetta suspected that this abnormal impingement of the nerve might be the cause of the painful facial condition known as trigeminal neuralgia. He devised the microvascular decompression procedure to treat patients with the condition. In addition to helping trigeminal neuralgia patients, the procedure became a treatment option for several related conditions.[2]

He was a faculty member and division chief at Louisiana State University before moving to a similar role with the University of Pittsburgh in 1971.[1] In 1995, he spent a year as Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.[2] Jannetta practiced at Allegheny General Hospital for a few years before he retired.[3]

Jannetta received a Horatio Alger Award in 1990.[4] The Karolinska Institute honored him with the Herbert Olivecrona Award in 1983.[5] He was married twice, first to history professor Ann Bowman Jannetta, then to art critic Diana Rose Jannetta.[2][6]

Jannetta was nominated by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge to be the State Secretary of Health. Jannetta had previously been accused of committing perjury, with the State's Superior Court stating, "We have little difficulty in concluding that Dr. Jannetta's testimony at deposition was different than, or inconsistent with, the testimony at trial". Jannetta was not, however, ever convicted of perjury.[7] Jannetta served in the position for six months, from 1995-96.


Jannetta suffered a head injury after a fall[where?] and died on April 11, 2016, six days after his 84th birthday.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Peter J. Jannetta". Congress of Neurological Surgeons. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Fox, Margalit (April 14, 2016). "Dr. Peter J. Jannetta, pioneering neurosurgeon on facial pain, dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  3. ^ Raap, Tony (April 11, 2016). "AGH neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Jannetta dies at age 84". Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  4. ^ "Local surgeon wins Horatio Alger Award". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. February 17, 1990. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  5. ^ "Herbert Olivecrona Award". Herbert Olivecrona Award and Symposium. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  6. ^ Stiles, Bob (December 11, 2012). "Seton Hill University recognizes husband, wife with honorary degrees". Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  7. ^ Levy v Jannetta, CCP Allegheny County, GD 81-7689; appeal -J. A370017/92 Levy v Jannetta et al., No. 00150 Pittsburgh, 1992. Settled, 1995."

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