Headache surgery includes surgical procedures that are performed to help relieve chronic headaches like migraines and cluster headaches, as well as other head pain directly related to damage or impingement of the facial nerves. Surgery can reduce the number of headache events, as well as the severity and duration of events. Headache surgery is typically reserved for patients for whom more conservative approaches of therapy have failed to provide meaningful relief.
Headache surgery is used for headaches and pain that are triggered by nerve problems, most commonly nerve compression that occurs when muscles, blood vessels or other tissues and structures press against nerves in specific areas of the head and face. Migraines and cluster headaches are two types of nerve-related pain that can often be relieved through surgery. Headaches caused by chronic muscle tension or problems in the neck like a slipped disc typically require other types of intervention.
Patients who have chronic headaches frequently undergo a series of injections with BOTOX®, a neuromuscular agent popularly associated with wrinkle reduction, but which has many other important applications. BOTOX can be used for temporary relief of nerve-related head pain, but it must be administered on a routine basis to maintain those effects. In headache surgery, BOTOX® injections can be used to help zero-in on the specific nerves that are involved in painful symptoms so surgery can be targeted at those areas for more effective long-term results without the need for ongoing injections.
The specific technique and approach will depend on the location of the nerve compression or impingement. Most surgical approaches use incisions near the eyelids or in the scalp to access underlying muscles and other tissues, releasing them or repositioning them so pressure is relieved. Studies show as many as 90% of chronic headache sufferers have been significantly helped by headache surgery customized for their needs.