Home > Migraines > Can Surgery Relieve Migraine?

Can Surgery Relieve Migraine?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 3 Apr 2017 | comments*Discuss
Migraine Migraines Headache Headaches

An American plastic surgeon is claiming to have found a surgical treatment that can relieve severe migraines. The work of Bahman Guyuron who is a Clinical Professor of Plastic Surgery in Cleveland, Ohio at the Case Western Reserve University has been profiled on a news channel in the USA and, on first look, seems to be a promising treatment. However, his methods have not been accepted by mainstream medicine. Is this because the method doesn’t actually work, or is it because neurosurgeons just don’t trust a plastic surgeon to have devised a useful treatment?

Surgery for Migraine

Dr Guyuron’s technique involves making fairly superficial cuts into the muscle and nerves that take messages from the surface of the head into the brain, where they are perceived as pain. He has explained that he discovered that these types of incisions could relieve migraine totally by accident when doing face lifts and other cosmetic surgery. Patients who had undergone a face lift that included a brow lift, where the skin over the forehead was separated from the underlying tissue, reported a dramatic improvement in their migraine symptoms.

The improvement rates that he claims are extremely high – over 90 per cent of people who have the surgery say they their migraines are significantly less troublesome. The programme on NewsChannel5 carried plenty of testimonials from former migraine sufferers who were delighted with the results of their surgery. Around three quarters of Dr Guyuron’s patients say that they have been completely migraine free since having the surgery.

Evidence that Surgery Helps Migraine

Dr Guyuron has been perfecting the technique for some time. In 2001, the British science magazine, New Scientist, reported the results of his small observation trial of his forehead surgery. In total, the report included data from 300 of his patients who had been given a face lift. Thirty-nine of them had suffered from severe migraines before their facelift and thirty-one of them reported that their headaches never returned after the operation. Half said they noticed great improvements while the other half said they never had another migraine after the surgery.

Dr Guyuron’s explanation also seems convincing. He says that the forehead lift removes a muscle called the corrugator supercilli, which is the muscle that we use to be able to frown. Cutting this muscle so that it cannot work anymore eases the frown lines on the forehead, and is an important part of the forehead lift. While there are many things that will trigger a migraine, the underlying mechanism that leads to pain involves the trigeminal nerves, which suffer local inflammation. These trigeminal nerves pass through to the brain through this very muscle.

Dr Guyuron thinks that cutting the muscle makes it less likely that the nerves passing through the area get put under pressure, so the migraine never starts.

Finding Out Which Migraines Will Respond

One of the most convincing parts about the claims of Dr Guyuron is that fact that he pre-tests patients to see if they will benefit from the surgery. He does this by injecting Botox, the oft-used cosmetic surgery drug, to paralyse the corrugator supercilli muscle. This has the same effect as surgery to cut the muscle, but it is only temporary. However, it does provide a window to examine the effect that the muscle has on the migraines of individual sufferers. If the Botox treatment cures their migraines for 3-4 months, and then they return, the surgery to actually cut the muscle can be done as a follow up to permanently cure the migraines. The operation is very short and needs only a 2 centimetre incision and takes about half an hour.

Many doctors would like to see larger trials to make sure the technique does actually work but the rationale behind it and the evidence available so far does make it look like a very promising new migraine treatment.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • OllO
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    @Kk - I would. Obviously, it's going to be an impact, but if it doesn't subside it's always good to get stuff checked out…
    19 July 2018
  • Mr.brown
    Re: Headaches Caused By Infection
    Question I recently had taken sti antibiotics for one week after that's about a week from the last day I took the pills I start…
    11 July 2018
  • Hil
    Re: Migraines and Menopause
    @CarryWarry - Oh wow - thanks for this. I have had a continual headache since menopause, having never suffered previously in my life.
    2 July 2018
  • MiM
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    @Queen - go back. If you have taken the time out to ask for help, then you need to see someone as obviously your neck is not right.
    2 July 2018
  • CarryWarry
    Re: Migraines and Menopause
    I am hoping to be at the end of a horrific 2.5 year period of hell with headaches which came out of the blue. My story started with me…
    2 July 2018
  • Queen
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    I hit my head about 3 months ago. It hurt but I'm someone who has a high pain threshold and tend to "walk things off". However,…
    2 July 2018
  • Shazza
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    I fell few weeks backs banging my head slightly. But last few days my head as been a bit fuzzy with headaches any need for…
    19 June 2018
  • Migraines/tension/pr
    Re: Numbness in Head With Pain and Dizziness: What Can it Be?
    I feel numbness on both sides and top of my head feels like my brain is swallon like a lot…
    18 June 2018
  • Lou
    Re: Headaches Caused By Infection
    I'm having lightheaded and can't stand up been in hospital they done all the test MRI ct scan all clear had a really bad attract…
    11 June 2018
  • N0NE
    Re: Headache With Pins and Needles: Is This Serious?
    Started feeling nausea yesterday,just now I felt sick,stood up and felt dizzy felt like I was going pass…
    5 June 2018
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the HeadacheExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.