What Is Migraine Surgery?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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Migraine surgery is typically used as a last resort when other methods of treatment have not been successful, as there are potential complications associated with any surgical procedure. Several types of migraine surgery are available, depending on the underlying cause of the headaches. The most popular procedures include arterial surgery, patent foramen ovale closure, and trigger site release. Spinal cord stimulation may be a good option for those who suffer from multiple migraine attacks each month. Any specific questions or concerns about the various types of migraine surgery or the most appropriate procedure for an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Arterial surgery is the most frequently performed type of migraine surgery and is indicated in cases where one or more of the branches of the carotid artery, found in the neck, are enlarged. When these vessels are surgically repaired, most patients will experience pain relief as well as a cessation of associated migraine symptoms, such as nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. The incisions for this type of procedure are usually placed within the hairline so that there are no visible scars and serious complications are rare.


Patent foramen ovale closure is a form of migraine surgery that is used when there is a hole in the heart due to a birth defect. This defect has been shown to cause chronic migraines, which often do not respond to more traditional methods of treatment. There are significant risks associated with this surgical procedure, as accidental damage to the heart tissue can lead to cardiac arrest or death.

Trigger site release may be chosen as the preferred type of migraine surgery in situations where the headaches are believed to be caused due to inflamed or damaged nerves. Depending on the specific nerves that have been injured, trigger site release may involve surgically disconnecting the affected nerve or clipping a nearby muscle and reattaching the healthy ends. Partial paralysis is among the most frequent complications arising from this procedure.

Spinal cord stimulation is reserved for those who suffer from severe migraines several times each month and have not responded to other treatment options. A device known as a spinal cord stimulator is surgically implanted underneath the area of skin that covers the spinal column and is designed to interrupt pain signals. The device can be removed if this method of treatment does not provide sufficient pain relief.


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