MUSC Advanced Migraine Surgery Program


What is Migraine Surgery?

Surgery for migraine headaches was first discovered by Cleveland plastic surgeon Bahman Guyuron, MD, who noticed that patients were reporting migraine relief after undergoing cosmetic brow-lift surgery. Research later showed that release of the supraorbital nerve, which is commonly done during brow-lift surgery, was the reason for this improvement.

Since that discovery, we have been perfecting the surgical options to provide long-term relief from migraine headaches. We now know of several other nerves that can trigger migraines headaches. Surgical treatment typically includes decompression of one or more of these nerves, similar to the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Migraine surgery may be an effective treatment for patients whose symptoms do not respond to medications or other interventions. It can also be an alternative treatment option for those who develop side effects from the medications that they currently use to treat their migraine headaches. The MUSC Advanced Migraine Surgery Program offers novel surgical procedures to treat migraine headaches. Surgical treatment can provide a long-term solution for patients who are severely or chronically affected by migraines. Depending on the type of migraine, we may use a minimally invasive technique to remove the portion of the nerve that is irritated or by removing the muscle around the nerve which is pinching or irritating it. Another approach targets other small nerves or muscles in the face or neck. For example, we may relieve nasal migraine trigger points through septoplasty, a surgical procedure for repairing a deviated septum in the nose.

The procedure is typically performed on an outpatient basis under local or general anesthesia. On average, the procedure only takes one to two hours, however the duration of the procedure is dependent upon the number of trigger sites that need to be released. The surgery is NOT an intracranial (in the brain) procedure. We simply treat the nerves beneath the skin which are triggering the migraine headaches. Patients can go home the same day of the surgery and the typical recovery lasts approximately one week.

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