August 17, 2009

A Face Lift For Migraines?

A promising new treatment using botox dramatically reduced migraines by disarming the nerves around trigger points. The procedure also gave...

According to a new study in the journal Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery, a common plastic surgery technique may provide migraine−sufferers with some relief, not to mention make them look years younger. The research team found that “disarming” the nerves associated with various migraine trigger points greatly reduces the number of the often−disabling headaches.

The team, led by Bahman Guyuron at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, studied 75 participants who suffered from moderate to severe migraines. The theory behind the study was that deactivating the nerves at the sites that trigger migraines (which are different for each person and can occur in the cheek, forehead, and back of the head), would prevent migraines from developing.

In patients who suffered from migraines at the temples, the result of the operation was also an eyebrow lift.

To test this theory before diving into surgery, the researchers injected BoTox (botulism toxin) into the participants’ trigger points, to see if this would temporarily stop the migraines. If it did (and it did), then the nerve trigger points would be surgically removed. An added benefit of the surgeries was that they also left patients’ faces with a bit of a lift, depending on the location of the operation.

About two thirds of the participants underwent actual surgeries to remove the trigger point nerves; the remaining third underwent sham surgeries, and so served as a control group.

"For the patients with forehead headaches, we removed the frowning muscles. That's why they look better, more cheerful” said Guyuron. In patients who suffered from migraines at the temples, the result of the operation was also an eyebrow lift.

A year post−surgery, 84% of the participants said they were still experiencing a reduction in migraines of 50% or more. Fifty−seven per cent of the individuals said that their headaches completely went away. The numbers were far less for the control group. Some numbness was experienced by some of the patients, but Guyuron says that it was usually temporary.

Though critics say that more research is needed before the procedure becomes commonplace, Guyuron believes it is a promising therapeutic tool, and has already performed the surgery on over 400 people. "It really is not invasive surgery. It takes about an hour to do the operation for each trigger site, three−and−a−half hours is the maximum," he says. "They go home right after the surgery and go back to work within a week."

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