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Which Migraine Surgery is Right For You?

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Jan 7, 2014 7:00:00 AM
n late November 2013, the renowned Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote a blog post about the current medical practice trend of migraine surgeries. Dr. Gupta is the Chief Medical Correspondent at CNN and specializes in neurosurgery; he explained that the first migraine surgical procedure was discovered almost by accident by plastic surgeons.

Migraine SurgeryAbout a decade ago, cosmetic surgeons practicing at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic noticed that some of their brow-lift patients who also suffered from migraines were inexplicably “cured” of their chronic headache conditions. 

The Cleveland Clinic surgeons were certainly puzzled by this situation; through research and experimentation, the surgeons found out that temporary relief from migraines could be achieved in some patients by injecting lidocaine or botulinum toxin, more commonly known as BOTOX, into trigger points such as their foreheads and temples. This procedure is only a test to determine if patients could benefit from a more permanent solution such as migraine surgery.

Migraine Surgery: A Treatment, Not a Cure

Surgical procedures to treat migraines present a bit of controversy. Migraines involve pain, which is a condition that is more often treated than cured. The goal of migraine surgery is to bring relief to patients and to prevent future migraine episodes. 

Over the last few years, medical researchers have identified two surgical procedures that have a certain degree of effectiveness with regard to treating migraine patients. Since this condition can be very debilitating and disruptive, thousands of migraine patients in the United States have been recently inquiring about surgical procedures they believe will cure them from their terrible headaches. It is important to keep in mind that arterial ligation and nerve decompression are advanced treatments for migraines; they are not, however, miracle cures.

Nerve Decompression

Certain nerves in the cranial, facial and neck areas of the human anatomy are known trigger points for migraines. These nerves are located above the eyebrows, in the temples, inside the nose, and in the posterior neck. Nerve decompression for migraine relief involves separating nerves from tissue that may be exerting pressure on them. This procedure does not involve cutting the nerves. 

Research has shown that this surgical procedure is effective 90 percent of the time for patients that are good candidates, which means that they have responded positively to the BOTOX or lidocaine injections. 

Arterial Ligation

This surgical procedure is more commonly associated with the treatment of cluster headaches, but it has also been proven to be effective for some migraine patients. Arterial ligation is a vascular surgery procedure that involves tying off blood vessels such as branches of the external carotid artery. Early research on this procedure dates back to the 10th century, but it was formalized in 1940. Modern blood vessel ligation procedures are minimally invasive and are more likely to involve cauterization than actually tying off the vessels. 

In the United States, nerve decompression is far more common than arterial ligation. Not all migraine patients will be good candidates for these surgical procedures; for this reason, it is important that patients consult with their doctors in this regard. 

*Image courtesy of

patient guide to surgery


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