For those suffering with unbearable cluster headaches, opening up the skull and inserting an electrode in the brain may be a future treatment.
For those suffering with unbearable cluster headaches, opening up the skull and inserting an electrode in the brain may be a future treatment as was the case with Barrie Wilson, a longtime headache sufferer.
Reported by many news outlets, including BBC News, a procedure took place at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen Square London. Wilson was awake through the whole procedure, according to a BBC News report, as surgeons drilled a hole into his scalp to place the electrode “deep into the brain.”
Wilson suffered from daily painful headaches. In the article he is quoted as saying:
"The last 14 years have been torment. I did not know from day to day, or from hour to hour, when I would get an attack, but you cannot let it beat you otherwise you may as well go into a corner and die. You must be strong-willed."
Ludvic Zrinzo was one of the neurosurgeons who performed the procedure on Wilson. The procedure called for the insertion of a probe “about 8-9cm into the brain into the posterior hypothalamus - the area which triggers the headaches.”
The neurostimulation occurs as a result of the electrode (made of titanium alloy) being connected to a pacemaker, “which emits a low electric current.” The cluster headaches are prevented because the stimulation blocks the signals that trigger them.
Wilson remained pain free following the procedure, and in four months post-surgery only had one headache, the article writes.
The Mayo Clinic describes cluster headaches as being “one of the most painful types of headaches.” The “attacks occur in cyclical patterns, or clusters.” The bouts of attacks may last “from weeks to months” and may be followed by remission periods.
Men are more likely to develop cluster headaches. Those who smoke and consume alcohol on a regular basis may be at more risk for developing the condition than those who do not. Also, a family history of cluster headaches is a risk factor.
Current surgeries to treat these headaches attempt to “damage the nerve pathways thought to be responsible for pain.” Side effects from these surgeries include muscles weakness in the jaw or some facial sensory loss. Some surgeries include cutting the trigeminal nerve to provide relief.
Another treatment includes injecting glycerol into the facial nerves.
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