Friday, July 31, 2009

Can migraine headaches be cured by surgery?

I'm amazed to read an article in the Daily Mail, in which a plastic surgeon claims that a relatively low-cost, one-hour operation, severing a muscle in the forehead, has reduced or even eliminated migraine headaches in the majority of his patients.

Dr Guyuron, a director of the American Board of plastic surgery who has published more than 150 articles in respected medical journals, stumbled on the idea while carrying out forehead lifts for cosmetic purposes. He realised the removal of the 'frown muscle', or corrugator supercilii, seemed to stem migraines in those prone to them.

Dr Guyuron believes that many migraines are caused by nerves in face, neck or scalp being irritated by over-tight muscles, and that removing or loosening these eases the pressure and therefore the pain.

He has carried out numerous studies into the technique and regularly trains other surgeons in the procedure.

The 'frown muscle' is most commonly operated on, providing the added benefit of a smoother forehead. Other migraine hotspots include the temporalis muscle, which is found in the temples and plays an important role in chewing.

Stopping it from triggering migraines results in the eyebrows being shifted slightly to the side - and a more youthful look.

In his latest study into the subject, Dr Guyuron has compared the surgery with a dummy treatment in which patients were operated on but their muscles left intact.

Forty nine men and women with severe migraines had the proper operation and 26 the other procedure.

A year later, 57 per cent of patients who had the full operation had been cured, compared with just 4 per cent in the other group. In all, 83 per cent of those who had muscle removed said their migraines were much less severe or had stopped altogether.

But when other studies involving more than 400 patients are taken into account, the success rate soars to above 90 per cent.

Dr Guyuron said: 'Patients are back to work in a week or less and the benefits last for the rest of their lives.

There's more at the link.

This is very promising, if true. (I'm not knocking Dr. Guyuron, you understand, just waiting for his technique to be tested more widely, to see if its initial promise holds true over a larger sample.) I've seen people absolutely prostrated by migraines, to the point where their work, their relationships and everything in their lives suffers. No medication seems to help them. If so simple a procedure can cure many of them, Dr. Guyuron will be hailed as a savior.


1 comment:

Tim said...

Perhaps they could train people to smile instead of frowning.