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Health Beat: Zapping away migraines

Published On: Dec 24 2013 01:27:18 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 04 2014 12:12:12 PM EST

Thirty-six million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches.


Thirty-six million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches. If you’ve ever had one, you know how debilitating they can be. Now, a new device that fits in the palm of your hand is wiping away the pain.

"It was very dangerous to drive with the migraine," said Megan Doscher, who is now back behind the wheel because of the occipital nerve stimulator.

Think of it as a nerve pacemaker. Doscher said she suffered two migraines a day before it was implanted.


"It felt like somebody was in my head with drums," Doscher said.

Now, she has one migraine every two weeks.

Neurosurgeon Brian Snyder implanted two electrodes at the base of Doscher's skull, near the occipital nerve.

"We place one of the wires on either side of the skull," said Dr. Brian Snyder, functional and restorative neurosurgeon, Neurological Surgery PC, and director of functional and restorative neurosurgery, Winthrop-University Hospital.

Those wires are attached to a pacemaker just under the skin in Doscher's chest. She uses a remote controlled device that can increase or decrease the amount of electrical impulses being sent to the nerves in her brain. The more pain she has, the higher the electrical impulses.

"I just stick it in my purse and I carry it around with me everywhere I go. I'm able to have a life now," Doscher said.

For the first time in years, Doscher is moving forward with less pain.

Snyder said the main risks of the surgery are bleeding, infection and hardware-related minor complications. The surgery is done in two parts, a trial and a permanent, so the patients that don't benefit from the trial don't have the surgery to implant the device.

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