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Hope for Migraine Sufferers



Migraine headaches affect about 36 million Americans. The throbbing, light sensitivity and other symptoms can be debilitating, but there is new hope for migraine sufferers via a minimally invasive treatment.

Researchers in New York have been working on a new intervention for patients dealing with recurring migraines. To help prevent painful recurrences of migraine symptoms, the researchers at the State University New York Empire State College in Saratoga Springs and the Albany Medical Center have been developing and testing a procedure that numbs the nerve area behind the nose that has been connected with migraines.

The treatment involves the using lidocaine, a common local anesthetic, to numb the sphenopalatine ganglion, which is the nerve bundle that is just behind the nasal cavity. The numbing solution is delivered by inserting a spaghetti-sized catheter up through the nasal passage. There are no needles that touch the patient during the simple process. When the initial numbing created by the lidocaine wears off, the migraine trigger does not have the effect that it previously did and patients report considerable relief, according to the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Kenneth Mandato. He also explained that the treatment apparently “acts as a ‘reset button’ for the brain’s migraine circuitry.”

The researchers just published results from a study involving 112 patients using the new lidocaine nasal process. Before the study began and they received the treatment, the doctors asked the participants to rate their degree of debilitation they experience from their migraine headaches using a visual analog psychometric response scale ranging between 1 and 10, the patients gave an average rating on the scale of 8.25. Additionally, they reported experiencing a level of 4 or greater at least 50 percent of the time.

Immediately following the experimental “intranasal sphenopalatine ganglion block” treatment, their average scores were cut in half. They went down to 4.1.

Best yet, one month after the lidocaine treatment, their ratings only went up slightly to 5.25, showing that the effect was not temporary. Overall, 88 percent of the study participants reported that they used less or no migraine medicine in the month after the procedure. While the results were promising, the research team hopes to study the treatment plan’s long-term effectiveness. In future studies, the researchers also need to test a larger group of patients. The researchers will also continue tracking the 112 study participants to gauge their responses 6 months and longer after the initial treatment.

Mandato explained that the blocks, which are image guided, are “breakthrough treatments.” He added, “They offer a patient-centered therapy that has the potential to break the migraine cycle and quickly improve patients’ quality of life.”

Anyone who has suffered from migraine headaches reports significant pain for hours to days. They can be so severe, with reactions to light, nausea, blurred vision and other symptoms that impair daily activities. Traditional headache medicines have some impact, but not on a continual basis. So, if the lidocaine block turns out to provide long-term relief and no side effects, it is clear there is new hope for migraine sufferers.

By Dyanne Weiss

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