Quick Treatment ‘Reboots’ Nerves to Relieve Migraines in Minutes

In 2016, Newsletter, Statler, Volume 8 Issue 2 by Addison Clark

A fast treatment now available at Virginia Interventional & Vascular Associates (VIVA) can relieve migraines and other chronic headaches for days, weeks, or months in many patients, announced Jaime All, MD, a board-certified, fellowship-trained interventional radiologist with the group. VIVA is the only practice in the Fredericksburg region to provide the treatment, a nerve block using a tiny device called a SphenoCath®.

Nerve blocks using SphenoCath have been shown to help many migraine sufferers, as well as patients with cluster headaches, headaches due to post-concussion syndrome, and trigeminal neuralgia. The procedure can be performed when the patient is experiencing a headache, or at regular intervals as a preventative measure.

“This is exciting technology that has proven very successful in other parts of the country,” said John D. Statler, MD, FSIR, a board-certified, fellowship-trained interventional radiologist with VIVA. “We are pleased to be able to offer it to patients in Fredericksburg.”

VIVA physicians use continuous X-rays and contrast dye to help them gently guide the soft, spaghetti-thin device through the patient’s nasal passage to the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), a pocket of nerves located inside the back of the nose. Physicians then administer lidocaine nerve block through the device onto the SPG before removing the device. No needles are necessary.

“It just so happens that delivering the nerve block to this ganglion bundle, the largest one outside of the central nervous system, can work like a hard reboot of a computer. It causes a temporary paralysis of the nerve bundle, so when it comes back on, it is working correctly and the patient is relieved of pain,” Dr. All added.

The procedure takes only five minutes to perform and patients can resume normal activities after resting in VIVA’s outpatient facility for 15 minutes.

An estimated 93% of patients with an active migraine obtain pain relief within three minutes of an intranasal SPG nerve block, he noted. Another study that tracked patients for a month following their procedures indicated that 88% required less medication or no medication for their migraines. Those findings were announced at the 2015 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology by Albany Medical Center and the State University of New York Empire State College in Saratoga Springs.

Following the procedure, patients already on regular medications for their conditions are advised to consult with their physicians before lowering or discontinuing their dosage.

The treatment is well tolerated by patients but some may experience mild discomfort during the procedure. Occasional, temporary side effects can include dizziness, nausea, throat numbness, or a mild nosebleed, he said. Some patients who have had recent head or neck surgery, chronic nosebleeds, or nasal obstructions such as polyps may not be candidates for SphenoCath.

Many insurers and Medicare cover the procedure, according to Dolor Technologies, makers of the device. Intranasal SPG nerve blocks for treating migraines are not a new concept, but SphenoCath has made them easier to perform and much more comfortable for patients who may have shied away from them in the past, Dr. All said.

The VIVA Advantage

VIVA’s interventional radiologists are board-certified, fellowship-trained physicians who specialize in imaging- guided treatments, so they have the professional expertise to successfully treat patients using the procedure, Dr. All noted.

Additionally, VIVA’s outpatient center is convenient for patients, located near the Spotsylvania Exit of I-95 with easy parking.

For more information about nerve blocks for migraines and other conditions, contact VIVA at (540) 654-9118 or visit vivassociates.com.