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Migraine Surgery Program in Savannah, GA

Frequent, chronic migraines can restrict your daily activities and impact your quality of life. For some people, migraines are caused by nerve compression in the head or facial area. With migraine surgery, you can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines caused by nerve compression.

Migraine Surgery Program in Savannah, GA

What Is Migraine Surgery?

Migraine surgery is a minimally invasive surgery that targets headaches caused by compressed sensory nerves. The most common sites for these compressions are known as "trigger points." You might have trigger points in your forehead, temples, back of the head, or inside the nose. Migraine surgery manually relieves the pressure on these trigger points to provide relief.

Commonly compressed nerves involved in migraines include peripheral nerves and occipital nerves, but there are many potential trigger sites. For example, migraine surgery may help with the following triggers, among others:

  • Peripheral nerve trigger
  • Occipital nerve trigger
  • Rhinogenic trigger
  • Temporal trigger
  • Auriculotemporal trigger

There are several different options for migraine surgery with varying degrees of complexity. This is because people have different combinations of migraine trigger points. If you have one trigger point, your surgery would be less complicated than if you have two or more trigger points.

Why Have Migraine Surgery?

Migraine surgery can provide long-term relief from severe or chronic migraines. If your life is significantly affected by chronic migraines, surgery may provide pain relief and help you return to normal.

What Are the Non-Surgical Alternatives to Migraine Surgery?

There are many non-surgical treatments for migraine. Many people do find relief with one or more of these non-surgical options.

  • Lifestyle changes. Some migraines are triggered by certain foods. For some people, stress or lack of sleep triggers migraines. Eliminating trigger foods such as caffeine, chocolate, or alcohol, and making other lifestyle changes, can improve migraine symptoms or completely prevent migraines.
  • Certain medications can reduce the frequency of migraines. NSAIDS, nausea medications, or triptans can provide migraine pain management. Beta-blocker medications and certain kinds of antidepressants can reduce the frequency of chronic migraines.
  • Some people with chronic migraines may benefit from BOTOX injections in the head and neck. It can take up to 4 weeks for the shots to take effect, and additional treatments are needed every 12 weeks.
  • Nerve block. For severe migraines, a small amount of numbing medication is injected into the base of the skull. These injections are given as needed and the pain management effects can last for weeks or even months.
  • Neuromodulation. These therapies use electrical stimulation to alter nerve activity. These include treatments such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Migraine Surgery?

Migraine surgery can help people experiencing considerable pain due to chronic migraine headaches. Surgical treatments are not a first step for migraine care. A good migraine surgery patient has sought other non-surgical treatment options first. You may be a good candidate for surgery if:

  • You’ve been diagnosed with migraines, or occipital neuralgia (sometimes called occipital migraines), by a neurologist.
  • You’ve tried non-surgical treatments that haven’t been successful.
  • You’re in good physical health.
  • You have realistic expectations about what surgery can achieve.

What Is the SPS Migraine Surgery Program?

Dr. Matthew McLeod started the Savannah Plastic Surgery migraine surgery program. He wanted to help people with chronic migraine headaches, who have tried medications and other treatments, but haven’t found relief. Even if other migraine treatments haven’t helped, you may find success with the migraine surgery program.

What Do I Need to Be Considered for the SPS Migraine Surgery Program?

Before being considered for the migraine surgery program, you will need:

  • To have been diagnosed with migraine disease by a neurologist.
  • To tell your neurologist and Dr. McLeod about your previously unsuccessful migraine treatments.
  • To schedule a consultation with us to discuss your medical history and treatment goals.
  • To review the details of surgery with Dr. McLeod, so you fully understand the treatment.

Migraine Surgery Consultation

At your migraine surgery consultation, you’ll discuss your history with chronic migraine headaches. This will involve talking about your treatment history, headache frequency, and diagnosis with migraine disease.

You’ll also discuss your general health and medical history. This is important, because your general health, including any medications you might be taking, may affect your surgery.

The consultation may also involve a physical exam. This includes an examination of the nerves in your head and neck.

Your plastic surgeon will talk with you about the surgery and what results you can expect to achieve. You’ll also be able to ask any questions you have about the surgery, recovery, and any related matters.

How to Prepare for Migraine Surgery

Read over all the materials your plastic surgeon gives you before the surgery. This will include instructions to follow before your surgery. Follow these instructions carefully. This helps to reduce your risk of surgical complications. It will also improve your recovery experience.

Medications. Make sure to let your surgeon know about any and all medications you take, including over-the-counter medications and supplements. This is important, because some medications affect your level of surgical risk. For instance, blood thinners increase the risk of potentially dangerous bleeding. If you use these medications, you may be advised to stop before your surgery.

Smoking. If you’re a smoker, you’ll be asked to stop smoking for at least two weeks before your surgery. You should also avoid smoking for as long as possible afterwards. This is important, because smoking reduces blood oxygen levels. This reduced oxygen adds to your surgical risk and slows down the recovery process.

What Is Migraine Surgery Like? An Overview of Migraine Surgery

Your doctor may perform the migraine surgery in-office or in an operating room. Where you have your surgery depends on your general health, and the specific treatment approach needed. If you’re in good health and your surgery is straightforward, it might be in-office. If you have multiple migraine trigger points, your surgery may be more complicated. In that case, it might take place in an operating room.

Surgery is carried out under local or general anesthetic. Your surgeon will discuss your options with you to determine what’s right for your situation.

To perform the procedure, the surgeon makes incisions at or near the patient’s migraine trigger sites. They then use surgical techniques to release the compressed nerves at those trigger sites. This might involve moving or removing small amounts of tissue around the compression site.

Migraine Surgery Aftercare and Recovery

Most people can go home the same day they have their surgery. However, you’ll need to arrange for someone to drive you home. That’s due to the effects of anesthetic. You’ll also need to rest for the remainder of the day.

Most people can go back to work and resume normal activities within a week of surgery. Strenuous physical activity should be avoided for around three weeks. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on when it’s safe to resume normal activity levels.

There will be some bruising and swelling at the surgical incision sites. The incisions made for migraine surgery are minimal, but wound care is still important. It’s especially important to minimize swelling and avoid infection. Your surgeon may prescribe antibiotics or other medications to help with healing and reduce infection risk.

You may have some soreness or numbness at or near the incision sites, too. This is normal and should gradually wear off within a week or two.

Some people find that it’s difficult to sleep in their usual position, due to soreness at the incision sites. It’s important to prioritize sleep during recovery. You might try out a new sleep position and/or try to get naps during the day so you get enough rest.

Migraine Surgery Risks and Complications

Surgical Risks

All kinds of surgery have certain risks associated with them. These complications occur only rarely. But it’s still important to be aware of them, so that you fully understand and can give informed consent for your surgery.

  • General anesthesia. Between 1 in 5,000 and 1 in 10,000 people are allergic or sensitive to anesthesia. If you’ve never had general anesthesia before, there’s no way of knowing if you fall into this category. However, if you’ve had general anesthesia before without any problems, you are unlikely to have an allergic or sensitive reaction to any subsequent anesthesia.
  • Blood clot/Deep vein thrombosis. Your risk of blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) increases temporarily after undergoing surgery. Inactivity also contributes to this risk, so it’s important to get back on your feet quickly after surgery. Smoking also increases the risk of a clot or DVT.
  • Poor results. There’s also a risk that even if your surgery goes well, you don’t get the results you were hoping for. For instance, you may experience an improvement in migraine symptoms, rather than a complete cessation of headaches.

Migraine Surgery Complications

  • Seroma/hematoma. These minor complications can occur after surgery as wounds start to heal. Seroma is an accumulation of fluid at an incision site. Hematoma is severe bruising. Most of the time these issues clear up on their own as part of the healing process.
  • Muscle changes. Sometimes the surgeon must move or remove a small amount of muscle tissue in order to release a compressed nerve. This may cause slight changes in muscle movement.
  • Skin numbness. Because surgery involves manipulating nerves, there may sometimes be temporary or permanent changes such as skin numbness at incision sites.
  • Although scarring is usually minimal, in rare cases poor wound healing may mean that scars remain visible or the skin surrounding the scar is discolored or raised.

What Results Can I Expect from Migraine Surgery?

There’s a lot of variation in how people benefit from migraine surgery, but most people do experience some improvement in their symptoms. For some the improvement is immediate. For others, it can take weeks or months to see the full effects of surgery. Similarly, while some have a reduction in severity or frequency of migraines after the surgery, others find the surgery eliminates migraine episodes entirely.

For some people, additional surgery may be needed to achieve the best relief from migraine symptoms. This is because sometimes a phenomenon called masking occurs with migraine pain. This happens when intense pain at one nerve compression site masks the pain at a second separate site. If you continue to experience pain at the site of surgery, or if you have new pain at a different site, see your surgeon for advice.

Overall, migraine surgery has a good success rate, and most people who have this surgery experience long-term improvement in their symptoms. For instance, one study analyzed migraine symptoms in surgical patients at five years post-surgery, and found that:

  • 88% of people reported significant improvements in their migraine symptoms
  • 29% experienced complete elimination of all migraine symptoms
  • 59% had a significant decrease in pain and other migraine symptoms
  • Only 12% of people reported that the surgery provided no benefits

How Much Does Migraine Surgery Cost?

The cost of migraine surgery at Savannah Plastic Surgery varies. It depends on where you have the surgery, and what kind of surgery you need.

We’ll discuss the costs of surgery with you at your consultation. Once we’ve developed a treatment plan, we’ll be able to provide you with precise treatment costs. We can also evaluate your eligibility for health insurance at this consultation.

Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Migraine Surgery?

Migraine surgery is a treatment for severe migraine headaches and is not a plastic or even reconstructive surgery (even though plastic surgeons do typically perform the procedure). This means, unlike with cosmetic procedures, that many insurance companies do cover the cost of the surgery. However, you may be required to try other non-surgical options before migraine surgery, in order to have the cost covered by insurance.

If you are eligible for full or partial coverage, make sure to get this confirmed in writing by your insurance carrier before booking the surgery.

Financing Options for Migraine Surgery at Savannah Plastic Surgery

SPS offers several payment options, including checks and cash, and all credit cards. We also offer Alpheon® and Care Credit® financing. To learn more about your payment options, please visit our financing and insurance page.

Talk to Us About Migraine Surgery

Choosing migraine surgery is a big step to getting your life back to normal. Don’t let migraines control your life. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to talk with Dr. Matthew McLeod.

Don't let migraines control your life. Contact us today to schedule your consultation for the migraine surgery program at Savannah Plastic Surgery. We welcome patients from Savannah and the surrounding areas of Chatham County, including those in Brunswick, Hinesville and Bluffton, Georgia.