Will Surgery Help Me Get Rid Of Or Reduce My Severe Migraines?

Q: I have suffered from severe disabling migraines for years. I have seen two different neurologists and none of the medications seem to work or are causing severe side effects. I’ve been doing research and came across the migraine surgery. I am willing to try anything to do away with or at least ease my migraines. As I am a single mother of three small children and it is crippling my income because I miss so much work due to these awful migraines.

A: Certain types of migraines can be cured or significantly improved by migraine surgery. Such surgery is based on release or decompression of sensory cranial nerves as they pass through muscles as they emerge from the bone. This has been shown to be effective for migraines that originate from the occipital, temporal, or supraorbital (brow bone) areas. A physical examination and the history of the migraine headache pattern can determine if one is a potential candidate. The definitive presurgical test is a Botox injection treatment into the identified nerve area. If significant relief occurs with the Botox injection, then this is a very good indicator that surgical decompression will be effective. I have yet to see a positive Botox test in which the patient did not get significant and sustained relief from the surgery.

Long-term studies out to five years has shown that about one-third of patients who undergo migraine surgery are cured. The majority of migraine surgery patients (about half) are not cured but have reduction in the number and severity of their headaches. A small number of patients (about 10%) failed to get benefit from the surgery.  

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana