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Surgery for migraines - an update

Posted Aug 04 2009 7:21pm

In my post 2 years ago I wrote about surgery for migraines and the many reasons why Botox injections is a better option than surgery to permanently cut nerves and muscles.  I also wrote that there were no controlled studies to show that surgery actually works.  Now we do have one study.  The study was blinded, which means that some patients had nerves and muscles cut, while others had only a skin incision.  The results were much better in patients who had real surgery.  The plastic surgeons who performed the study tried their best to produce a blinded study, but they admit that blinding is far from perfect since patients who had real surgery can see their muscles shrink or not move.  But even if we accept that blinding was achieved and surgery indeed provides relief of headaches, all of my other arguments stand.  These include surgical risks (bleeding, infection, scarring, and persistent nerve pain) and high cost.  Yes, Botox is expensive too, but migraine usually is not a life-long illness and migraine attacks often stop for long periods of time or permanently with or even without treatment.  I have seen many patients whom I treated with Botox every 3 months and whose headaches stop after a year or two.  Two years of Botox treatments is significantly cheaper than surgery and it does not carry all of the surgical risks.

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