Skip to content

    Migraines & Headaches Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Surgery Doubted as a Migraine Reliever

    Review of two studies finds inconclusive evidence of success

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Amy Norton

    HealthDay Reporter

    FRIDAY, June 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Migraine surgery is increasingly touted as a potential "cure" for the debilitating headaches, but researchers say the evidence just isn't there to support those claims.

    In an analysis of two studies on migraine trigger "deactivation" surgery, researchers found multiple flaws in the study methods. What's more, they say, the surgery carries risks and high costs not covered by insurance, and doesn't jibe with what's known about the underlying causes of migraine.

    "The surgery is, first of all, unproven. Second, permanent side effects are not uncommon," said Dr. Paul Mathew, a neurologist and headache specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

    Those lingering problems include persistent itching and numbness in areas affected by the surgery -- which is typically offered by plastic surgeons, not headache specialists.

    Mathew, who led the research analysis, was scheduled to present his findings this week at the American Headache Society's annual meeting in Los Angeles. Until published in a peer-reviewed journal, the findings should be considered preliminary.

    Around 10 percent of the world's population complains of migraines, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Migraines typically cause intense, throbbing pain on one side of the head, along with sensitivity to light and sound, and sometimes nausea and vomiting.

    Generally speaking, headache specialists are skeptical of migraine surgery, which also goes by terms such as "nerve decompression" and "trigger point release." The approach was pioneered more than a decade ago by an Ohio plastic surgeon, Dr. Bahman Guyuron, after he found that some patients who had facial "rejuvenation" procedures reported a side effect: relief from migraines.

    Since then, plastic surgeons have developed a few approaches to migraine surgery, depending on where they determine the "trigger" to be. The surgeon might remove portions of muscle in the forehead or back of the neck; tissue inside the nose, or a segment of the trigeminal nerve -- one of the nerves running from the brain to the face and mouth.

    Increasingly, centers offering migraine surgery are popping up across the United States, with some marketing it as a "cure," Mathew said.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    Business woman with hand on face and eyes closed
    What aura looks like, triggers, and more.
    woman with migraine
    Get the truth about migraines.
     
    headache in the bedroom
    Keep headaches from ruining your sex life.
    woman with hands on head
    Test your knowledge of triggers, types, and more.
     
    woman with migraine
    Quiz
    drinking coffee
    Article
     
    Migraines Headaches Basics
    Article
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    Slideshow
     
    Tired young man
    Slideshow
    spraying perfume
    Article
     
    man with a headache
    Article
    headache in the bedroom
    Article