Migraine Headache Surgery: A New Treatment Option

Thursday, September 06, 2012 9:39 AM

Migraine-SurgeryRelief from migraine headaches can come in many different forms – from pain medication, preventative drugs, massage and acupuncture to at-home remedies including relaxation techniques and proper sleep.

Approximately 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men in the United States suffer from migraine headaches. Those who are able to identify “trigger” sites on the head or face where the migraine pain starts or localizes may be able to consider a plastic surgery treatment option. Botox, traditionally used to relax facial muscles to reduce wrinkles, can also be used to relax muscles around the nerves that may trigger migraines.

Michael Howard, MD, a plastic surgeon at NorthShore, works closely with our neurologists to evaluate candidates for migraine headache surgery.  Dr. Howard identifies some of the factors that may help determine if a patient is a good candidate for this surgery:

  • A diagnosis of migraine headache is confirmed with the patient’s neurologist. In most cases, success in reducing pain has not been achieved through other treatment methods, such as medication.
  • Specific trigger sites for headaches can be determined. These are often caused by a compression or entrapment of specific nerves in the head and neck region. 
  • A Botox injection test is performed at the trigger sites.
  • Patients with a positive result from injection—a 50 percent or greater reduction in migraine frequency, duration or severity —may be considered for this treatment.
  • Once patients are considered appropriate candidates, and trigger sites have been identified, the procedure finds the nerves responsible for the headaches through a small incision in the skin. The nerves are then cut and the incisions are closed. Recovery is fast and most patients are able to resume their normal activities within a few days.

Do you suffer from migraine headaches? Do you know your trigger sites?

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