New tool helps severe headache sufferers

Posted at 8:38 PM, Nov 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-24 21:38:39-05

A new tool at Nebraska Medicine is providing relief for some people who suffer from chronic migraines, cluster headaches and facial pain. 

Dr. Angie Rakes says sphenopalatine ganglion blocks have been around since the 1900s. Doctors put a numbing medicine on the ganglion which is a bundle of nerves. This can shutdown or quiet head or neck pain. In the past though, doctors would place the anesthetic with a large cotton swab up the nose or by injecting the medicine through the person's face. These techniques were not always effective or comfortable.

Now, there's a new tool in the fight.

Dr. Rakes says the SphenoCath is pliable and thin which allows doctors to administer the medicine through the nose. They're able to put some numbing medicine in the nose too so patients don't feel the minimally invasive procedure. 

"We take the catheter and slide it up the nose, look for placement with x-ray and then attach a little syringe and drop anesthetic in. The whole procedure takes maybe five minutes. We do one side then go over to the other," Dr. Rakes says. 
Dr. Rakes recommends this procedure for patients who have tried other techniques but have yet to find an adequate treatment plan. 
Stephanie Middleton of Omaha suffers from chronic migraines and can get about 15 headaches a month. Some are worse than others. She says, "my non functioning migraine is when it's on the left side of my head, and that's when I'm vomiting, I can't drive, I can't get up and do a lot of normal things." 
Middleton has had the block with the SphenoCath two times months apart and says it made a huge difference. "All last month, I was like this is fantastic, I'm not having a headache, I've gone a whole month with no migraine."
She continues to take other medications and can feel a migraine coming on but it describes it as more pressure than pain which is a major change from the past. 
If you would like to learn more about Dr. Angie Rakes or Nebraska Medicine, click here