Imagine being the first person in the country to undergo a trial surgical procedure. That is exactly what happened to one man in Ohio, suffering with disabling chronic headaches for the past 4 years. Before receiving the experimental neurostimulation surgery, he was under siege from cluster headaches between 2 and 3 times each day. Colorado NBC affiliate’s Channel 9 News recently reported this story.
According to the report it will be several months before the device may or may not be activated, to ultimately test the efficacy of the procedure. This is because the surgeons want the patient to heal from the procedure. Also, it isn’t known whether this patient will be one of the subjects in the larger scale clinical trial to receive the treatment or if he will be in a control group. In controlled studies when the patients, along with their physicians, are not aware if they are recipients of the real treatment or a placebo, the outcome of the study is believed to be more accurate.
The neurostimulation procedure took place recently at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and was performed by a medical team led by oral and sinus surgeons. They made a 2-inch incision into the patient’s gum through which they inserted a small stimulator, about the size of an almond, behind the cheek sinus and into the space containing the sphenopalatine ganglion (a bundle of nerves believed to be involved with the cluster headaches).
The patient receives a remote control device with which he will be allowed to activate the neurostimulator when he senses the signs of an impending headache. The sinus surgeon who performed the procedure said, “It allows us to affect the communication between various nerves that contribute to chronic cluster headache, but without doing that and causing permanent damage to the nerve.”
The news report noted that peripheral nerve stimulation, the technology behind the Omega procedure, is already being used to treat migraines and chronic headaches by blocking pain messages from reaching the brain with electric stimulators controlled by the patient.