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Plastic Surgery Procedure Cures Migraines

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People who suffer from frequent migraines could benefit from plastic surgery…

A recent clinical trial has found that plastic surgery techniques, which target facial muscles and nerves linked to headaches, can be used to null the painful effects of migraines.

Michelle Cramer, a graphics illustrator in Williamsburg, Va., suffered about 15 migraines a month for almost a decade, until she underwent surgery to disarm the nerves responsible for her frequent headaches.

“I get maybe two migraines a year now,” she said.

Using surgery to correct migraine is a relatively new idea. Dr. Richard Lipton, director of the Montefiore Headache Center in New York City, who was not involved in the new study, said:

“The theory here is that there are sites outside the brain in the face and back of the head that can trigger migraines and, if you surgically remove the migraine trigger, the migraine will improve and there’s certainly a precedent for the idea,”

According to the article, approx 30 million Americans suffer from migraines, a large number of them being women.

The study involved 75 patients with moderate to severe migraine headaches. Once the migraine trigger sites in the forehead, cheek and back of the head/neck had been identified, doctors injected Botox to these areas to see if they could be disarmed.

Plastic Surgery Can Cure Migraines

If the trigger sites responded to the Botox, then the patients underwent surgery to remove the trigger areas.

Forty-nine patients were randomized to receive “real” surgery and 26 to “sham” surgery. The surgeries differed depending on the trigger points. Dr. Bahman Guyuron, lead author of the study and professor and chairman of the department of plastic surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, explained:

“For the patients with forehead headaches, we removed the frowning muscles. That’s why they look better, more cheerful…

“Those with temple headaches underwent an operation on a small nerve, which also lifted their eyebrows…

“And, for those with a back-of-the-head trigger, [we] replaced a small amount of muscle around the occipital nerve with fatty tissue to shield the nerve from being squeezed by the muscle.”

After one year, nearly 84 percent of patients receiving actual surgery reported a 50% reduction in migraines, while more than 57 percent said that their migraines had completely disappeared, 57.7% and 3.8 %, respectively, in the sham group.

Some patients did experience temporary numbness in parts of the face, said Guyuron, but it usually went away.

“One thing that’s impressive is the migraine-free rates,” Lipton said. “The other thing that was impressive is they did a year of follow-up. Usually, everything is placebo-responsive but those responses are usually short-lived. A year is really impressive.”

Guyuron believes the procedure, which he has already performed on more than 400 individuals, could benefit a wide range of migraine sufferers:

“It really is not invasive surgery. It takes about an hour to do the operation for each trigger site, three-and-a-half hours is the maximum…

“They go home right after the surgery and go back to work within a week.”

But Lipton wants to see another study, and feels surgery should be reserved for the most intractable cases.

“This is obviously not for everyone. This is for people who are really suffering, who’ve had adequate trials of medical therapy and who have an identifiable trigger point and get better following a Botox injection…

“There are a lot of hurdles someone would have to jump over before I would send them for surgery.”

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