Implant effective for woman’s migraines

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LENEXA, Kan.  -- Stephanie Harville lived with the pain of migraines every day for years.   Then she turned to a seemingly radical approach, one that is not yet approved.  It's made a radical difference.

Harville had tried dozens of medicines and combinations over 16 years.  She also tried acupuncture and biofeedback to no avail.

"I was so discouraged that I had given up.  I was living.  I was going through the motions, but I didn't have a life," said Harville.

Then a doctor suggested neurostimulation.  It's long been used for severe back pain.

"Replacing the pain with a pleasant sensation," said Dr. William Rosenberg, director of the Center for the Relief of Pain at Research Medical Center.

Dr. Rosenberg implanted the device that sends mild electrical signals to the painful areas.  First Harville had a trial run.

"I knew immediately," she said.

It was helping.  Weeks later, Dr. Rosenberg permanently placed four wires or leads in her head just under the skin.

"Here's the ones above the eyes, and this one is in the back of the head," he said as he pointed at x-rays.

The wires are connected to the battery that's implanted in Harville's chest.  She can control the intensity and frequency of stimulation.

"If his or her headaches are in different locations at different times, they can control that," said Dr. Rosenberg.

Harville emphasized that it's not a cure for her migraines.  But she said she's had an 80 percent reduction in the number and severity of headaches since the procedure 18 months ago.

"Today I function and have my life back," said Harville, who writes a migraine survival blog.

She wants others who don't benefit from standard migraine treatments to know neurostimulation is an option.  But it's not FDA-approved for migraines yet.  Studies are underway to see if it is effective in groups of patients.  For now, it's an off-label use which means most insurers won't cover it. However, Harville's did.

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