New treatment could bring relief for migraines

October 3, 2011

For the past 25 years, his life has been interrupted by pain from migraines.

"At least one day a week, I was in bed, and couldn't do anything. A lot of pressure behind the eyes. My jaw and my neck would hurt" said Reigner

Doctors believe migraine pain is caused by a complex chain of events in blood vessels and nerves on the lining of the brain. Nerves fire wildly, like lightning in a storm.

Medicine helps many sufferers but never worked long for Reigner.

At times he was too nauseous from the migraines to take medication at all.

About four years ago, he enrolled into clinical trials testing a new device called the Genesis stimulator

A small generator is implanted on the hip sending mild electrical pulses to the nerves on the back of the brain. The frequency and intensity of the pulses can be adjusted.

Dr. Stephen Silberstein of the Jefferson Headache Center says so far trials done in the United States have worked for many patients.

"In fact, we had one patient who after the stimulator was put in, there was an 80 percent reduction in his headaches," said Dr. Silberstein.

Overall, the makers of the device report a 28 percent decrease in headache frequency in patients with the device after 12 weeks, compared to a four percent drop among patients tested with a placebo.

Still Dr. Silberstein says not all patients in the Genesis trial were happy. A quarter of them said they would not try the stimulator again.

Reigner, however, says it turned his life around.

"Once a month, I may get a headache, but the intensity isn't there," said Reigner.

The stimulator is said to be only for people who have exhausted all other options.

The Genesis device was approved in Europe this summer. The FDA is expected to make a decision whether it will be approved in the U.S. sometime next year.

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