Migraine Surgery: The Fact May Surprise You

Experts believe migraines are severe headaches caused by abnormal brain activity and the compression of nerves and blood vessels. They can come on suddenly, last for a short period, or be chronic.

Key takeaways:
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    Migraines are a debilitating condition and believed to be caused by pressure to nerves and blood vessels.
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    Migraine treatment options include avoiding triggers, taking medication, and having surgery.
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    Migraine surgery, also known as the nerve decompression surgery, is a relatively new procedure.
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    The surgical migraine treatment has a 68% to 93% success rate of at least reducing migraines.

What are migraines?

Chronic migraine is defined as having at least 15 headache days a month, with at least 8 days of having headaches with migraine features, for more than 3 months.

Auras or sensory disturbances often accompany migraines. Auras are usually visual, or can be auditory, sensory, motor or a verbal disturbance. They are not actually happening. These auras are in the nerve tissues and a migraine headache may follow the aura.There is evidence that the migraine aura is due to an electrical or chemical wave that moves across the brain. The part of the brain where the electrical or chemical wave spreads determines the type of symptoms you might experience.

Many people who experience headaches can also have nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, sounds, or smells.

What triggers migraines?

Why migraines happen is still unknown, but scientists continue to do research. Current theories involve overstimulation of the brain, genetic factors, and abnormalities in nerves or blood vessels.

Migraine triggers may include the following:

  • Stress;
  • Hormonal changes;
  • Flashing lights;
  • Specific foods or medications;
  • A combination of factors.

Individual migraine sufferers have different triggers. If you suffer from migraines, it is important to track them and make notes. For example, what was going on when it came on? This answer may point to a particular trigger.

How to treat migraines

The first thing people should do to treat their migraines is to identify their triggers and avoid them. Unfortunately, sometimes triggers are harder to avoid or are unknown. Avoiding all triggers can also lead to isolation. Refraining from many activities may also cause social separation from friends and family. This form of treatment is often called a behavioral modification.

Several medications are used to treat migraines. One of the most important things is to remember to take any medications at the first sign of a migraine, otherwise, the longer you wait, the harder it can be to treat it. Some acute headache treatments are:

  • Anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen.
  • Combinations, like caffeine, aspirin, acetaminophen tablets.
  • Triptans, like sumatriptan.
  • Narcotics, that are often used as a last resort if other treatments fail.

Some medications can be taken to help prevent migraines. However, they must be taken daily to be of help. Medical professionals use certain blood pressure medications, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, and monoclonal antibody injections to help prevent migraines.

Can plastic surgery treat migraines?

Yes, plastic surgeons offer two treatments for migraines — botox injections and migraine surgery (also known as nerve decompression surgery). The place on your head where the migraine originates is the trigger point. Plastic surgery treatments aim to relieve the pressure on the trigger points.

Botox injections offer temporary relief for migraines. Your plastic surgeon or neurologist injects Botox in and around your main trigger points. This relieves pressure from the nerves and blood vessels in the area to prevent migraines. While Botox might not be long-lasting, it can help pinpoint your trigger points.

Plastic surgeries to treat migraines

Migraine surgery is used as a last resort. Migraine surgery is a relatively new procedure. Bahman Guyuron, M.D. discovered that after undergoing certain procedures, some people had relief from their migraines. He continued to study this effect and eventually developed different procedures to decompress the nerves around trigger points.

Because each person’s trigger points are different, migraine surgery is individually tailored. However, the basic concept behind each surgery is the same. A small incision is made near the trigger site. Then the tissue is removed from the area around the nerve to reduce the pressure placed on the nerve.

Who qualifies for migraine surgery?

There are a few qualifications to be a candidate for migraine surgery, such as:

  • Having tried several different migraine treatments without much success;
  • Having an official diagnosis of migraines from a neurologist;
  • Being relatively healthy.

What are the risks of migraine surgery?

All medical procedures carry some risk. Migraine surgery risks include the following:

  • Bleeding;
  • Hematomas (collection of blood under the skin);
  • Infection;
  • Blood clots;
  • Numbness or changes to skin sensation;
  • Ongoing pain;
  • Incomplete relief of headaches;

Migraine surgery success rates

You might not feel results right away after migraine surgery. It will take a few weeks to recover from the surgery. You may have some swelling and bruising, but that will clear up.

If the surgery is successful, you should experience migraine relief within two to four weeks. According to a study by Mangialardi, M. L et al., 28.3% to 59% of patients found complete resolution of their migraines. Another 26.5% to 60% had at least a 50% reduction in their migraines.

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