Migraine Surgery (Nerve Decompression Surgery)

What causes migraines?

Migraines are caused by compression and irritation of nerves and vessels in or around your head. Relieving compression in trigger points, or the sites of compression, can decrease the severity or frequency of migraines. In some cases, migraines can be eliminated altogether.

There are several potential trigger points, but most people experience them in the following areas:

  • Frontal (above the eyes and/or in the forehead)
  • Temporal (over the temples)
  • Rhinogenic (inside the nose, sometimes extending behind the eyes)
  • Occipital (the back of the head, sometimes reaching across the skull to the eyes.)

What is migraine surgery?

During migraine surgery, Dr. Howland decompresses the nerve associated with the trigger point to release pressure. The cause of compression varies according to the patient’s particular anatomy and which trigger point causes the migraines, but typically it is discovered that part of the bones, fascia, muscle tissue, or blood vessels are causing pressure on the nerves. Once that pressure is relieved, patients should feel either decreased or complete relief from pain associated with migraines.

Migraine surgery can be performed using either an endoscopic or open approach.  This is considered an outpatient procedure, which typically takes about one to two hours. Patients can expect some bruising and swelling, which subsides within two weeks.

Who is a candidate for migraine surgery?

Many migraine sufferers are candidates for surgery, but since symptoms vary it is best to consult with Dr. Howland about your individual case. Generally, good candidates have:

  • A migraine or occipital neuralgia diagnosis from a neurologist
  • Little to no success with previous treatments or therapies
  • Good physical health otherwise

If you would like to find out if migraine surgery is the right treatment for you, contact Dr. Howland and schedule a consultation in our Salt Lake City office.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is recovery for nerve decompression surgery for migraines?

The recovery period for nerve decompression surgery for migraines is typically about 4-6 weeks.

How long does occipital nerve decompression surgery last?

The surgery takes two hours or more. It depends on the number of trigger points and the complexity of the surgery.

What to expect after nerve decompression surgery?

After nerve compression surgery, recovery takes about four to six weeks, but it can take a few months to determine the success of the procedure. There may be some swelling or inflammation during the recovery period. You should not lift any heavy objects or do any strenuous activities for a minimum of three weeks. Swimming, curling irons, and chemical hair treatments should also be avoided.

How successful is nerve decompression surgery?

Nerve decompression surgery has a success rate between 68.3% and 93.3%.

How to determine if you are a candidate for migraine nerve decompression surgery?

Generally, a good candidate for migraine nerve decompression surgery is anyone who hasn’t responded to other migraine treatments, has had negative side effects from migraine medication, and has been diagnosed with migraine disorder.