Across the world, migraines are the third most common medical disorder. 

Migraines are a disabling medical condition for some individuals. For individuals with migraines that aren’t receptive to other treatments, migraine surgery may be an option.

But before signing up for this type of surgery, you’ll want to know what it is, if it works, and the potential risks. We’re talking about all of that and more in this quick rundown of surgical treatment for migraines.

What Is Migraine Surgery?

There are a few different types of migraine surgery. 

The first is nerve decompression. This involves removing tissue that causes pressure on peripheral sensory nerves. These nerves are believed to be linked to migraine trigger points.

The second is called a neurectomy. This treatment involves cutting nerves in the head. These nerves are believed to contribute to migraines.

Does Surgical Treatment for Migraine Work?

Migraine surgery is controversial. While some surgeons and physicians have embraced this form of treatment, others don’t think there’s been enough research into their effectiveness and the potential risks.

Right now, only small controlled trials exist. The idea that nerve compression contributes to migraines has never been extensively studied, either. In addition, these surgical treatments have not been approved by the FDA for migraine relief.

With that said, there are patients who report effective relief from migraine surgery. In fact, some studies report that some individuals with refractory migraines may experience a 50% reduction in the frequency of migraines after surgery. These patients also require less medication following surgery.

Potential Risks of Migraine Surgery

There are actually very few known side effects associated with migraine surgery. Some of the more common side effects include nasal discharge, scalp itching, and dryness in the nose. Some patients may experience weakness and stiffness in their facial tissue, but this is usually a temporary side effect.

More serious risks include ptosis of the eyebrow. This is a permanent sagging in the eyebrow that requires remedial surgery. A diminished range of motion around the eyebrows is also a possibility.

A major concern around migraine surgery is that it creates a placebo effect. That is, the migraines improved based on a psychological effect instead of from the actual treatment. Another major concern has to do with the variability in success rates.

All things considered, migraines that can’t be treated with medications can have a significant impact on your quality of life, so it’s important to determine whether the risks outweigh the benefits or vice versa.

Is Migraine Surgery Right for You?

Migraine surgery is intended to treat individuals with migraines that aren’t receptive to medications. A good deal of research is still needed to reach any conclusions regarding the effectiveness of this surgical treatment for migraines. However, there are individuals who have experienced relief after having this procedure.

What’s right for you is a conversation best had with your physician. Contact us to set up an appointment with one of our doctors.