New Surgical Procedure Holds Promise for Permanent Relief from Migraines
Existing treatments for migraines, such as oral medication or injected drugs, have been shown to temporarily alleviate symptoms in some, but not all, patients. In some instances, these treatments, whether effective or not, have unwanted side effects. But now there is good news for the more than 28 million Americans who suffer from migraines: According to a recent study, an outpatient surgical procedure provided 80% of patients with pain relief at or above 50%, and over 43% with complete and lasting relief from their migraines, altogether.
Over the past few years, several studies have been performed to test a recent theory that migraines are caused by nerve compression: Nerves in the neck, temples or forehead that are pinched as they pass through various anatomic structures or canals. As a result, the severe and recurring pain is similar in origin to carpal tunnel syndrome, a commonly diagnosed condition for which surgical decompression is frequently performed. This surgical method has now been adapted for headaches caused by neuralgia, or trapped nerves.
I am a San Francisco-based, Harvard-trained plastic surgeon with specific training and experience in a variety of different peripheral nerve operations, including successful nerve decompression to treat migraines. I have performed well over 100 different peripheral nerve procedures and feel fortunate to be among the few surgeons in the world with the background and training to perform these delicate operations. Moreover, most procedures can be done as an out-patient. For example, in a patient with the most common site of pain originating in the back of the head/scalp, the procedure involves a small incision on the nape of the neck, just above the hairline. Once the surgical site has healed, typically in a couple of weeks, patients report significantly fewer headaches, lower headache severity, and shorter headache duration in those who still report headaches at all.