For people who suffer from debilitating chronic migraines, quality of life is usually poor. Instead of occasional headaches and migraines, these patients live with the horrific pain and symptoms of migraines daily, which interferes with their daily lives. There are many methods used to treat chronic migraines, one of which is surgery. This extreme option is only used when all other methods have failed, and there are several risks associated with this invasive procedure.
What Is Migraine Surgery?
There are two types of surgery that have been proven to relieve migraine symptoms. The first involves decompressing the peripheral sensory nerves along the skull. Treating these nerves do not require the surgeon to operate on your brain or remove a portion of your skull, so this outpatient procedure typically has a faster recovery time. It has been proven to reduce the severity and frequency of migraine symptoms. With this procedure, nearly one-third of patients experience complete relief from chronic pain.
The second surgical option is more invasive. It involves small neurotransmitters being placed in your brain at specific trigger points. You can then use a special remote control to send different frequencies to the transmitters to reduce the severity of migraine symptoms. This treatment method has a full recovery time of four to six weeks and requires a single overnight stay after the surgery for observation.
Who Is a Candidate for Migraine Surgery?
Migraine surgery should be a last resort for people who have been diagnosed with the chronic condition by a licensed neurologist. After consulting with you and experimenting with other treatment methods, your doctor will be able to determine if you are a good candidate for a surgical procedure.
When Should You Use Surgery to Treat Chronic Migraines?
There are many treatment options available for people who suffer from migraines. Depending on the type of migraines you have and your individual triggers, your neurologist may recommend any of the following methods to relieve your symptoms.
- Botox®: While most often used for cosmetic purposes, this treatment method works by temporarily paralyzing overworked muscles to smooth away lines and wrinkles. When being used to treat migraines, Botox® is injected into trigger points to keep your muscles from contracting and causing headaches.
- Pain medication: Occasionally, certain types of pain medication is enough to relieve your migraine symptoms. If over-the-counter products are not strong enough, your doctor may prescribe pain medication.
- Hormone replacement therapy: If your migraines are triggered by a hormone imbalance, replacement therapy could be the solution. Your doctor will prescribe medication or occasionally schedule surgery to rectify the problem.
- Preventative medication: Many people who suffer from chronic migraines can benefit from taking medication daily to prevent headaches from occurring. Antidepressant and cardiovascular drugs are most often used for this purpose.
What Are the Risks of Migraine Surgery?
Before deciding to undergo surgery, it is essential to understand that the procedure is not guaranteed to work. You may not experience any relief at all, you may have some improvement, and you may be completely relieved. The only way to find out if the surgery will help is to try it, but as with any surgical procedure, there are several risks associated with migraine surgery, including those listed below.
- Asymmetrical muscle function
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Tissue necrosis
- Skin loss
- Fluid retention
- Poor wound healing
If you suffer from chronic migraines and are desperate to find some relief from the pain, contact the National Headache Institute to set up an appointment so you can discuss your options with a neurologist. After assessing the severity of your migraines, determining your triggers, and accounting for your personal risk factors, we can help you decide on the best treatment option to improve your quality of life.