New procedure could cause migraine relief

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- About 37 million Americans suffer from migraines.

These often debilitating headaches can cause pain, nausea, dizziness and light sensitivity.

Many suffer for years without relief, but now a new procedure is stopping the pain by relieving the pressure.

Meredith Messerli, a college freshman, spent two years of her life battling severe migraines.

"Just walking, each step that I heard would hurt my head. I would just lie in a dark room all day and not really talk to anyone," said Meredith.

She saw 30 doctors and tried nearly 50 different medications, but her mom says nothing worked. She even withdrew from high school.

Shelly Messerli, Meredith’s mom, said, "It was horrible. It was a nightmare for the whole family."

Dr. Bardia Amirlak says patients like Meredith often experience pain because nerves in the head and neck become irritated.

"The nerves get compressed,” said Dr. Amirlak, Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery at Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Amirlak works to relieve pressure by making small incisions around trigger points. He then decompresses nerves in the problem area by cutting the muscle and small vessels.

"What we do is essentially cut the pathway that sends the signal to the brain, and that stops the migraine process," said Dr. Amirlak.

This technique was accidentally discovered by a plastic surgeon in Cleveland who performed a forehead lift for cosmetic reasons. He started to notice that his forehead lift patients also reported relief from migraine symptoms.

Most patients experience some relief from this procedure, and about 60 percent have complete relief.

Dr. Amirlak says between 80-90 percent of insurance companies cover the decompression procedure.

After two decompression surgeries Meredith's headaches are gone, and now she can focus more on schoolwork and less on pain.


REPORT: MB # 3764

BACKGROUND: Migraines are the worst and most painful headaches. Those who suffer from them often experience the profound throbbing in the head and they become sensitive to sound and light. At times, migraines can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. This excruciating headache may be accompanied with a tingling sensation in the arm or leg, blind spots, and flashes of light. (Source:
TREATMENT: There is no cure for migraines, but that does not mean that they cannot be relieved. Medication is usually prescribed by doctors to help alleviate the patient's symptoms and this is divided into two categories; preventative medications and pain-relieving medications. Preventive medications are designed to be taken daily and were created to cut down the number of headaches a patient has. Pain-relieving medications are only taken in the event that a migraine occurs to cease occurring symptoms. (Source:
NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new way to treat migraines was actually discovered by accident. A plastic surgeon in Cleveland, Ohio was performing forehead lifts on patients, and found many were reporting that they no longer experienced any migraines. The procedure involved removing the muscle just above the eyes, which seemed to decompress the nerves which can send pain signals to the brain. They found if they performed this kind of decompression at major sites around the head and neck, migraine symptoms would generally stop. It is not, however, curing the underlying cause of the migraine. Instead, they simply cut the nerves and tissue around these sites, which stop the pain signal from being sent to the brain in the first place. The procedure is covered by 80 to 90 percent of insurance companies, and can run from about $5,000 to $10,000 per site. (Dr. Bardia Amirlak,

Bardia Amirlak, MD

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