Advances made in brow lift treatment for migraines

May 16, 2012 7:07:16 AM PDT
There are advances in an alternative treatment for migraines that ABC7 News first told you about when it was in its earliest stages. The procedure was actually discovered by plastic surgeons, after several patients told them their migraine headaches had disappeared after surgery. Now, that procedure, originally known as a brow lift has been refined.

Geraldine Allen loves quilting and babysitting her six-year-old grandson. But at times she's been in far too much pain to do either because of severe migraine headaches.

"Oh, it feels like nausea. light sensitivity, noise sensitivity -- throbbing pounding pain," said Allen.

But after decades of pain, Allen says she's finally found temporary relief and now she wants to make it permanent.

"Dr. Miranda injected Botox in both of my temporal nerves and it put a stop to the migraines," said Allen.

Doctor Edward Miranda isn't a neurologist, but a plastic surgeon in San Francisco. He says the success of the Botox injections confirmed that Allen's migraines were potentially treatable with a procedure that originally evolved from a cosmetic surgery called a brow lift.

"We're basically decompressing the nerves that are pinched in certain patients with migraine headaches," said Dr. Miranda.

In an operating room at California Pacific Medical Center, Dr. Miranda carefully severs small sections of muscle to release pressure around the nerves that he believes are triggering a patient's headaches. The same area was being relaxed by the Botox.

"On the right you see the temporal branch of the trigeminal nerve and that's the second most common nerve that causes migraine headaches," said Dr. Miranda.

ABC7 News first reported on the technique two years ago. Several neurologists we spoke with at the time were skeptical about the long term benefits. Dr. Miranda points to five year data recently released by researchers at Case Medical Center in Cleveland, who pioneered the surgery.

"Those data showed that 88 percent of those patients who had improvement had persistent improvement," said Dr. Miranda.

He says several minimally invasive surgical techniques have also been developed since the original brow lift approach. Allen is hoping the surgery will free her permanently from the chronic pain.

"It's going to mean that I don't' have to be at home after dark, that I can be out and I can drive without worrying about headlights triggering a migraine. It's going to mean that I can have more quality time with my grandson," said Allen.

Since the surgery is now for the direct treatment of migraine, and not cosmetic purposes, Dr. Miranda says it is most often covered by insurance.

Written and produced by Tim Didion


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