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Plastic Surgery May Stop Headaches Along With Frown Lines

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"The unusual thing about this study is the remarkably long period of time these patients were [free of headaches]," David M. Knize, MD, tells WebMD when asked to review the study, which was published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Because this minor surgery apparently led to headache relief lasting four years on average, and 10 years in one patient, D. Hal Unwin, MD, in the journal article, calls it a "potentially revolutionary" treatment for migraine. Unwin is a neurologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Conventional migraine medications must be taken daily for long periods to prevent headaches, while injections to abort a painful migraine attack are costly and inconvenient, and often must be given in a hospital emergency room.

"I've been told to use ice bags, go in a dark, quiet room, and even see a psychiatrist," Myers says.. "Suppositories and other medications only gave me temporary relief."

On Feb. 11, 1999, Myers had the forehead lift, which Guyuron had recommended to smooth out frown lines that Myers felt were making him look tired. "As time went on after the surgery, I realized that not only did I look much better, but I also had no more headaches," Myers says.

However, "in my own patient population of over 400 patients, I have not been able to confirm the experience of Dr. Guyuron," says Knize, an associate clinical professor of surgery (plastic surgery) at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. "I don't believe we should act on this as being a treatment for migraine until we can substantiate its effectiveness."

Only five or six of Knize's 400 patients had migraine headaches as defined by the strict guidelines of the International Headache Society, and only one of these patients noticed headache relief after surgery. Knize, Unwin and Diamond suggest that researchers should follow more migraine patients who've had forehead lifts before recommending the operation as a potential migraine treatment.

"Since some patients may have different [triggers] causing their headache, the procedure might not work for everyone," says Guyuron.

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