New surgery to treat migraines

September 25, 2008 7:20:40 AM PDT
The constant pain kept one woman from focusing on the job she loves. Chronic migraines can be debilitating, but now a new surgery is providing freedom from pain.

Imagine waking up every morning with a splitting headache and then trying to get through the rest of the day in constant pain. 28 million Americans suffer from migraines and most of them are told medication is the only treatment, but some doctors are performing a new kind of surgery that could heal the headaches for good.

Maria McIntyre works for a company that trains people in the building industry.

But the constant pounding that nagged Maria for years didn't come from work, It came from her chronic migraines.

"You wonder what is it that would give you a permanent state of pain like this that doesn't go away," said McIntyre.

Maria was taking a pile of pills that only eased the pain temporarily. Then she found a doctor with a permanent solution.

"It's very cool to help somebody who had pain for 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 years," said Dr. Ivan Ducic.

Dr. Ducic is one of only a few surgeons performing microsurgery for migraines. He says sometimes a pinched nerve in the head is to blame. In the procedure, he removes a small part of the muscle that's pressing on the nerve, which relieves the pain.

"The nerve theoretically, after it's been decompressed, should regenerate and clinically then respond to no headaches or at least diminished headaches after the surgery," he adds.

That works for about 80-percent of people. The others can have a second surgery to remove the nerve completely.

"These nerves have nothing to do with the function of your brain, arms, legs. You can not be paralyzed from them because they're only purely sensory nerves," adds Dr. Ducic.

Those eligible for the surgery have suffered from migraines for at least six months, are seeing a headache specialist and feel tenderness in the back, side and front of the head. Two surgeries fixed maria's problems.

"I'm a much friendlier person. I'm much easier to work with."

Now she's focused on housing issues, instead of headaches.


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