According to the Migraine Research Foundation, an estimated 12 percent of Americans suffer from the severe, debilitating headaches known as migraines. About 2 percent of those are considered chronic migraines, which are categorized as migraines that occur more than 15 days per month.
But while some migraine sufferers can find relief with over-the-counter and prescription migraine medications, many, including some who suffer from chronic migraines, cannot. For those patients, there has been historically little that could be done to quell the symptoms of migraine, forcing sufferers to wait out the headache until it goes away on its own. For the infrequent migraine sufferer, this option is an inconvenience, but for chronic sufferers, it can have a devastating impact on the sufferer’s quality of life, interfering with their job, family time and social activities.
Now, a new treatment may be the solution medication-resistant migraine sufferers have been searching for, and it came from an unlikely place.
Imagine you suffer from migraine headaches but you're also interested in keeping a youthful appearance, so you decide the time is right for a forehead lift. Except when you undergo the forehead lift procedure, you get an unintentional side effect: no more migraines. That’s exactly what happened to numerous migraine sufferers who underwent forehead lift and hair transplant procedures. In fact, it happened enough times that the medical community started taking notice and started studying the effects of this type of surgery on migraine sufferers. From this research came the development of a procedure called migraine surgery.
"Sometimes some of the biggest medical breakthroughs are accidental," says Dr. Carlos Pou, a plastic surgeon based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. "in this case, a fairly common plastic surgery procedure could improve the quality of life for millions of people."
While the migraine surgery itself is somewhat different from its plastic surgery predecessors (after all, as Pou explains, not everyone who suffers from migraines needs a forehead lift or hair transplants), it works under the same principles: that destroying nerve endings in the scalp can prevent migraines from occurring.
For his part, Pou hopes this breakthrough will help improve the image of plastic surgery.
"Plastic surgery has a reputation as being purely cosmetic and not medically useful, but tell that to the patient who no longer has breathing trouble thanks to rhinoplasty or who is finally able to drive again thanks to a blepharoplasty procedure," he says. "Plastic surgery is about more than just looks. It really can improve your quality of life. And now it can cure your migraines."