Study finds migraine surgery decreases headache frequency

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A recent study published in the June issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery presents compelling evidence that nerve decompression surgery is an effective treatment for chronic migraine.

This surgery, which aims to alleviate nerve compression at key trigger points in the head and neck, is shown to significantly reduce the number of headache days, a primary outcome measure valued by neurologists.

The study was led by Jeffrey E. Janis, MD, an ASPS Member Surgeon and Professor of Plastic Surgery, Surgery, Neurosurgery, and Neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Dr. Janis emphasizes that while neurologists traditionally focus on reducing monthly migraine days, plastic surgeons assessing the outcomes of headache surgery often use the Migraine Headache Index (MHI).

This index accounts for various aspects of headaches, including their frequency, intensity, and duration.

The study’s analysis, which included 19 studies conducted between 2005 and 2020 involving 1,603 patients, revealed that peripheral nerve decompression surgery not only reduced the frequency of migraine days but also led to significant improvements in other migraine-related measures.

Findings showed that on average, patients experienced 14.11 fewer migraine days per month post-surgery. Additionally, the total MHI score decreased by 76.59 points, with notable reductions in the intensity and duration of migraine attacks.

These outcomes are particularly relevant as they provide a more comprehensive evaluation of the benefits of headache surgery, bridging the gap between different medical specialties’ approaches to migraine treatment.

Dr. Janis pointed out that such discrepancies have historically led some headache specialists to be hesitant about recognizing the effectiveness of headache surgery.

The robust evidence from this meta-analysis supports the efficacy of headache surgery in treating chronic migraines and suggests that it should be considered a viable option for patients who have not responded well to traditional nonsurgical treatments.

Furthermore, the study highlights the importance of standardized outcome measures across specialties to enhance communication and understanding between plastic surgeons and neurologists.

The publication of this study coincides with National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month, emphasizing its relevance and the need for increased awareness and education about migraine management strategies.

This research marks a significant step forward in the multidisciplinary approach to treating headache disorders, providing a strong argument for the inclusion of surgical options in comprehensive migraine management plans.

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The research findings can be found in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.

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