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Controversial migraine surgery
36-million Americans suffer from migraines.
And a growing number are taking extreme measures to relieve the pain -- by undergoing migraine surgery.
Doctor Sanjay Gupta -- has more on this controversial treatment.
"Hey guys, you know, nearly 10 years ago plastic surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic noticed something curious after performing certain operations known as brow lifts. Some of the patients came back saying they used to have frequent migraines that then went away after the operations. Other surgeons became intrigued by this and they began to experiment. And today they start to toss around this word cure or at least something close to it."
"I just want to have a life. I operate on half a life."
Koren Ha says she has about 15 good days a month
The other 15 she deals with crushing migraine pain
"It feels like a Boa Constrictor around my head. It feels like a snake going like this. I tried oxygen tanks, I tried acupuncture, every migraine medication, every seizure medication, antidepressant, everything."
Well almost everything.
"And what are we doing for you today?"
"What kind of surgery?"
Migraine surgery a controversial treatment for what many neurologists say is an intrinsically brain-based problem.
"I'm just going to make a couple of marks."
Koren's plastic surgeon says that tight muscles and connective tissue are literally choking her nerves especially in the neck and that may mark the beginning point of her migraines.
So he plans to make incisions and remove bands of muscle in what he says are trigger points -- frown lines around the eyes...The temples, the base of the skull... Basically relieve the pressure.
"We have patients who are almost 3 years out from surgery and they're still reporting no headaches."
To be sure migraine surgery has its detractors.
The American Headache Society calls migraine surgery a last resort option that is not appropriate for most sufferers.
We caught up with Koren 12 weeks after surgery. Her headaches she says are down to three a month.
"Three a month for me is very good. I had a tough recovery but it's definitely working for me. "
"Now it's safe to say many neurologists are still skeptical this can be a cure for migraines. But Dr. Alizadeh says the procedure can be very helpful to a certain subgroup of patients. So to see if a subject is a good candidate surgeons will often test by injecting lidocaine or botox into the suspected trigger points. If that helps they say the operation can be a more permanent fix.