Most patients recover quickly from migraine surgery. As you consider whether you should undergo surgery for your migraine attacks, it's natural to have questions. Here are some of the most common concerns.
How Quickly Will I Recover From Migraine Surgery?
Recovery times following surgical procedures for migraine conditions vary from person to person, but are normally relatively quick and without problems. Migraine surgery is minimally invasive, with most procedures are performed on an out-patient basis. The surgery itself may take between one and four hours, depending on the number of migraine trigger sites.
Immediately following surgery, you shouldn't have too much discomfort. Pain medications will ease your initial soreness, and you’ll be able to take a full shower the second day after surgery.
Medical specialists will provide all the personal information you need before and after your treatment, tailored to your own specific circumstances.
Most patients follow a predictable pattern of recovery, so in general you can expect:
- Swelling and/or bruising - this is normal following any surgical procedure. Within two weeks, any acute swelling or bruising will have mostly gone. Some patients find inflammation lingers for up to three months, but this doesn't typically restrict daily activities. At the 6-week point, you may find inflammation flares up again, and this could be accompanied by a severe headache. You should be aware of this possibility and consult your doctor if it happens. Oral or topical anti-inflammatories will help ease discomfort.
- Avoid strenuous activity - take it easy for three weeks following surgery for migraine headaches. You can return to work and resume most daily activities within one or two weeks, but should avoid heavy lifting or major physical exertion. Some people find this difficult if such activities are part of their daily routine, especially as they recover and begin to feel better. You will avoid complications and recover fully much faster, if you can remember to avoid straining your body during the recovery process.
- Side effects - most patients have minimal side effects following surgery. Some numbness behind the head or around the temple areas may last for a few weeks, with any soreness in the back of the neck disappearing after a week. There is always the possibility of infection or bleeding after any surgical procedure, but specialized surgeons do all they can to minimize the risks.
- Getting enough sleep - some patients find discomfort from inflammation at the site of surgery makes sleeping in their usual position difficult. You will have pain medications to help reduce discomfort, but for the first few nights you may need to find alternative sleeping positions. A neck pillow may help. After a few weeks, you should be sleeping normally.
Although you go home quickly once you’ve had your procedure (often on the same day), you should not expect to drive yourself. Make sure you arrange for a ride from the hospital to ensure you arrive home safely.
Will I have Follow up Appointments?
All patients who undergo surgery for migraines can expect follow up appointments to monitor their progress. The frequency depends on the individual patient and their personal needs, but typically post-surgical check-up patterns run like this:
- You’ll have an initial check usually within the first three days following surgery, and definitely within the first week. If you go home immediately after your procedure, the first check will be sooner rather than later.
- One week after the first check, you will have a comprehensive review to ensure all is progressing as it should and you are not experiencing unexpected side effects or complications.
- Six weeks later, you will have another check, and by this time you should be well on the way to full recovery.
Further checks and reviews depend on your unique circumstances. They will be determined and arranged on an individual basis.
We remove sutures between 8 and 12 days following surgery, depending on the type and placement. Procedures such as M.I.S.O.N (Minimally Invasive Supra-Orbital Nerve) and M.I.G.O.N.E (Minimally Invasive Greater Occipital Nerve Entrapment) for migraine don’t require large incisions, and the surgeon will often use soluble sutures that the body slowly absorbs. Staples may close M.I.G.O.N.E incisions, and your primary care physician can remove these if you prefer. Depending on your post-operative progress, this may be possible during your second follow up appointment.
Will I Develop Scarring?
Incisions are normally located on the scalp or within other natural creases, so visible scar tissue should not be apparent. Other physical change risks include numbness in the scalp or a reduced ability to frown. Every patient is different, so you doctor will be able to give more detailed personal expectations.
Migraine surgery can produce real relief for chronic migraine sufferers. It is not possible to guarantee a total cure from migraine, but around 90% of patients experience, at the least, less severity and migraines of shorter duration.