Surgery to Treat Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches can be treated with surgery, which can provide great relief to migraine sufferers. During this outpatient procedure, the doctor will decompress the peripheral sensory nerves around the skull. This procedure can lessen the frequency, duration and severity of migraine headaches. The surgery is done under local or general anesthesia and typically takes one to two hours. Depending on the patient’s specific migraine trigger sites and their locations, and can take a bit longer if the sites are on different areas of the head. This procedure is NOT done on the brain – the doctor will not go through or remove parts of the skull.

 

How successful will the surgery be?

Studies have shown migraine surgical success rates to be above 70 percent, with one-third of the patients experiencing total relief of their migraines. When successful, patients have reported an improvement in migraine frequency, duration, intensity and in their overall quality of life as it relates to health.

 

Who is a candidate for migraine surgery?

While there are several factors to be considered, two major determinants of whether a patient is a candidate for migraine surgery are:

  • Diagnosis with migraines by a neurologist (not all headaches are migraines)
  • Sites of nerve compression must be identifiable with a high degree of confidence

Other important factors include the efficacy (or failure) of other medical treatments, the side effects of medications and the severity of the migraines. Patients with a favorable response to Botox® or local anesthetic injections are generally regarded as good candidates for migraine surgery.

 

Will I experience side effects or have scars?

Most side effects of migraine surgery are both minor and temporary, and will vary according to the specific surgery. Complications include surgery site healing problems, nerve injuries, bleeding and failure of surgery to eliminate headaches migraines. Treatment of migraines around the eye may actually improve the appearance of the forehead by decreasing wrinkles and correcting sagging eyebrows.

Most of the incisions are made in either the scalp or in the upper eyelid, so as to lessen scar tissue in visible areas.

 

How long is the recovery?

Slight bruising and swelling may occur, and typically resolves within two weeks. Most patients are able to return to their usual activities within the same time frame. Depending on the specific nerves targeted by surgery, patients might be asked to avoid strenuous exercise for up to three weeks.

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