Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
If you’re a migraineur — one of the unlucky 17% of women and 5% of men in the U.S. who suffer from chronic migraines — you know that treating these afflictions can be quite a headache itself. Taken in large quantities, Excedrin can leave you with stomach ulcers, while injectables like Ketorolac require a trip to the hospital. Other treatments come with considerable side effects, such as sleepiness and weight gain. Revamping your lifestyle and eating habits can sometimes help the issue, but migraines are hard to pin down; they're caused by genetic variants and triggered by a slew of factors, including everything from hormone levels to weather.
Luckily, a team of plastic and reconstructive surgeons from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, LSU Health Sciences Center, and other notables may have discovered the solution to your migraine woes. In their study, published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 35 patients underwent a new surgical migraine treatment. All 35 individuals suffered from chronic nerve compression migraines and had previously responded positively to either Botox or nerve-block treatments.
Unlike the commonly used, highly invasive procedure that involves working an endoscope down from the scalp under the skin, this new technique involves deactivating patients’ migraine trigger sites through incisions in their upper eyelids. The method proved to be just as effective as the established endoscopic option, with 90.7% of the patients responding positively to treatment. A year after the operation, 51.3% of the participants were migraine-sufferers no more; 20.5% stated that the surgery nixed more than 80% of their symptoms, 28.2% reported that at least 50-80% of their complaints had disappeared, and 9.3% experienced negligible change in their migraine frequency and intensity.
That said, the sample size for this study was fairly small. Plus, each case is unique; everyone has his or her own anatomical and logistical issues to consider before going under the knife, especially when face alteration is involved. Dr. Oren Tessler, LSU Health plastic and reconstructive surgeon and researcher, acknowledged the limitations of the study: “We believe that these patients should have ready access to migraine trigger-site decompression surgery. Although larger studies are needed, we have shown that we can restore these patients to full and productive lives.” In the meantime, if you suffer from chronic migraines, try consulting our comprehensive guide to dealing with these headaches from hell.