Implant blocks the pain from migraines - FOX 13 News

Implant blocks the pain from migraines

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Nine months ago, Megan Doscher was out of options for dealing with her horrific migraine headaches.

"I've tried anti-seizure medicines, I've tried Botox, I've tried different kinds of medicines to help the migraines, but nothing was helping me," she said.

The 24-year-old had been getting migraines since she was 12 years old. The headaches were debilitating.

"I would have to be in bed with the blinds closed," she said.

Doscher says her migraines subsided in early 2012, thanks to a small device that she says changed her life.

"I went three weeks to a month without getting a migraine after the surgery, so I knew, ‘okay this is working, this is good,' " she said.

The device is a type of spinal cord stimulator, stimulating the area of the head containing the occipital area. The device functions as a "pacemaker" for pain, delivering controlled electrical pulses that block the transmission of pain signals from the spinal cord to the brain.

Cori Borsack is set to get the same surgery.

"I feel like I want to be in a dark room with no noise, no light," she described.

Doctor Brian Snyder says it's a simple surgery with profound results.

In the operating room, he explains what he's going to do.

"We're going to put electrodes under the skin, over the skull, connected to a pacemaker in the chest wall to decrease this woman's migraine headaches," he says.

One Tampa migraine expert says she has seen great success with the procedure.

"I have referred 80 patients to that, so I have a lot of experience with it," says Doctor Maria Carmen Wilson, a neurologist at Tampa General Hospital. She has seen success with nerve stimulators as well.

"I can tell you I have seen people that have failed absolutely everything and have become pain free with this stimulator device," she said.

A 2012 study in the December issue of Cephalalgia mirrors Dr. Wilson's experience. Chronic migraine patients in the study who received this procedure showed significant reductions in pain, headache days, and migraine-related disability. The study was sponsored by St. Jude Medical.

Other studies are underway.

Doctor Wilson is also tracking the future of migraine relief. Available now: A patch for headache pain coming in April, and an inhaler device to deliver migraine medicine.

"You put it in your mouth an actuate it," she says.

In the works: plastic surgery to put down those miserable migraine symptoms.

"These are people who have localized tenderness in their temporalis muscle or the occipitales. They actually cut the muscles that are tender, and they release nerves that are in that vicinity," Wilson said.

As for the pacemaker for pain, it hasn't gotten FDA approval yet. Doscher says it's keeping her migraines at bay, and Borsack is doing just as well. They urge others not to give up hope.

"We have so much to choose from, our patients should not be pessimistic about it, because with everything we have, our patients can get help," Wilson said.

So far, the pacemakers haven't been FDA approved for this indication, but patients are getting them off label or within clinical trials. It usually involves patients like Megan, who have failed all other therapies.

It's always best to talk with your doctor if you think you're having migraines and to keep a journal. It's not just foods that can trigger migraines -- stress, smells, even nicotine can cause the headaches. Treating them can sometimes be as simple as avoiding your trigger.


For more information:

Dr. Maria-Carmen Wilson


Tampa General Hospital / USF Health

Dr. Brian Snyder



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