WEDNESDAY, Oct. 2, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Chronic migraine headaches plagued Adam Pressley from childhood, and by his 30s they had become a near-daily occurrence.
Pressley, 31, had tried everything to stop them: blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, seizure medications, and even quarterly injections of Botox.
Then his doctor suggested something surprising, saying plastic surgery could potentially relieve nerve pressure that was contributing to the headaches.
“I kind of thought it was crazy, a plastic surgery procedure that could help people with their migraines,” said Pressley, who lives in Clarksville, Tenn. “I was both skeptical and happy at the same time.”
The use of nerve-releasing plastic surgery to treat migraine has been around for a couple of decades, and the procedure is becoming more common and more effective, said Dr. Salam Kassis, a plastic surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Clinical research now indicates that about half of the people who undergo surgery to release entrapped nerves will experience complete relief from migraines, and another 40% will have fewer and less severe headaches, he said.
“Over the last 20 years, our percentages have improved dramatically. The success rate is even better than it was a decade ago,” Kassis said.
Not all headache experts are sold on the procedure, however.
“Certainly, there are some cases where this might be helpful, but it’s not something I generally recommend in my practice,” said Dr. Rachel Colman, an assistant professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City.
Pressley started having migraines at age 9, and their frequency increased from about once a month in childhood to nearly every day.
“They can darn near incapacitate me,” he said. Noise and light become unbearable, his vision gets blurry, and the pain makes him nauseated.
Pressley, a computer science student, recently finished a six-year stint with the U.S. Army, where he warned new commanding officers that he suffered severe migraines five to seven days a week.
He learned about the plastic surgery procedure from Kassis, who spoke to him during one of his regular Botox treatments, and decided it was worth a try.