Migraine headaches affect nearly 40 million Americans. Statistics indicate that 1 in 4 households has a migraine sufferer, and that migraines are the 3rd most common type of illness worldwide. Due to the dramatic ways in which migraines can impair a person’s ability to work and engage in life freely, research has continually sought a better understanding of this neurological condition. In doing so, some doctors have developed innovative techniques of treatment. Here, we discuss the value of headache surgery for migraines and other chronic headaches.
Migraine Surgery May Not Be What You Think
When people hear the term “migraine surgery” or “headache surgery”, they think brain surgery. However, what doctors have learned from research is that some chronic headaches originate in the nerves, not in the brain. Therefore, treatment need not address the brain, but the affected nerves. Headache surgery has been developed as a way to reduce headaches that are related to nerve or muscle trigger points. It has been discovered that these trigger points may reside in several different areas, including the face, nose, scalp, and neck.
Rather than being “brain surgery,” headache surgery is all about nerve decompression. The procedure is performed meticulously from the very first consultation visit to ensure that optimal improvement can be achieved. To determine if a patient is a good candidate for headache surgery, the doctor performs a thorough medical history and discussion of the details of headaches, as well as prior treatments. They may also conduct special tests to confirm trigger points and the appropriate area of treatment.
Migraine trigger points are certain sensory nerves near the head, such as one of the occipital nerves at the back of the head. Irritation to the sensory nerve sets off a cascade of events in the neurological system that result in headache pain or a migraine. Botox is a common diagnostic modality used to confirm trigger points. In this technique, the doctor injects a small amount of the FDA-approved drug and observes improvements over the span of a few weeks. If pain improves, the trigger point may be confirmed.
Why is Testing Necessary?
Headache surgery could not be as successful as it is were it not for proper diagnostic mapping of the involved trigger point. The entire procedure revolves around decompressing the sensory nerve that is causing headaches. Migraine surgery is tailored to the specific triggers a patient has, and achieves phenomenal results in more than fifty percent of patients.
Dr. Patel has offices at Keck Medicine in Los Angeles and Glendale. Contact us at 323.442.0416 to schedule a consultation for headache surgery.