Monday, December 15, 2008

Headache Procedures

Below is an excerpt from the Houston Chronicle on headache procedures. Click here for the full article, called "So many ways to treat so many types of headache" by Cindy George.

I wasn't aware of these procedures. If you've tried one or more, I'd love to hear from you on whether or not they worked!

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• NERVE BLOCK: The occipital nerve block, called ONB, is a 10-minute outpatient steroid injection around pinched nerves that stretch from the upper neck to the back of the eyes.
"That will help relieve chronic daily headaches and migraines," Derman (Dr. Howard S. Derman, a neurologist at The Methodist Hospital) said.

The medication doesn't go into the bloodstream and there are no side effects from the steroids, he said.

After 140 procedures in the last 18 months, Derman reports a 65 percent success rate.

• NERVE DECOMPRESSION SURGERY: Involves an incision at the back of the head to remove thick tissue that squeezes occipital nerves.
"The decompression is very effective in relieving headaches that have been going on for years," Blake (Dr. Pamela Blake, a Houston neurologist at Memorial Hermann Northwest) said. She evaluates patients and determines which nerves need the operation.

A surgeon performs the decompression. Ideal candidates have had daily, constant headaches for more than 6 months and do not respond well to medications. About half of patients with insurance are covered for the procedure.

• NERVE STIMULATION IMPLANT: A device connected to a battery pack, similar to a pacemaker, is placed under the skin to stimulate occipital nerves and drown out pain.
"The theory is that your brain can only listen to one type of stimulation at a time," Blake said. "If we can drive out painful stimulus with painless stimulus, the brain will listen to that."

This is an option for people who did not respond to decompression surgery or whose insurance will not cover the surgery.