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Zapping Away Migraines

Doctors use a nerve pacemaker to relieve headaches.

A new device that fits in the palm of your hand is helping patients with severe migraines headaches.

"It was very dangerous to drive with the migraine," Megan Doscher said.However, now she is back behind the wheel.

It's because of the occipital nerve stimulator. Think of it as a nerve pacemaker. Megan says before it was implanted, she suffered two migraines a day.

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

Now, she has one migraine every two weeks.

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


"We place one of the wires on either side of the skull," Dr. Brian Snyder, Director of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery, Winthrop-University Hospital said.

Those wires are attached to a pacemaker just under the skin in Megan'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," Megan said.
For the first time in years, Megan is moving forward with less pain.

Dr. Snyder says 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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