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Surgeons shy away from migraine procedures

Article-Surgeons shy away from migraine procedures

Ann Arbor, Mich. — Though it’s known that a simple plastic surgery procedure can help some migraine headache sufferers, relatively few U.S. plastic surgeons are performing it, a new study reports.

Researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed nearly 3,500 members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons about their knowledge, attitudes and experience related to migraine surgery. After analyzing responses from nearly 200 surgeons, investigators found that only 18 percent had performed migraine surgery — and that of that group, more than 80 percent said the surgery improved their patients’ symptoms.

According to an ASPS news release, techniques for relieving migraines were developed by plastic surgeons who noticed that some migraine patients had fewer headaches after undergoing cosmetic forehead lift procedures. The survey shows that some surgeons are interested in performing the procedure but perceive “significant barriers” to the increased use of surgical treatment for migraine, according to the ASPS.

Among the survey’s findings:

• Sixty percent of respondents said they would be interested in offering migraine surgery if an appropriate patient were referred to them by a board-certified neurologist.
• Many surgeons surveyed said they didn’t feel familiar enough with migraine surgery techniques — or with migraines in general — to perform the procedure.
• Most respondents said they were unaware that migraine surgery is covered by some major health insurers, including Medicare.

The authors acknowledge the study has some important limitations, particularly the very low response rate of about 5 percent. However, results suggest that many others are aware of research showing the effectiveness of the surgery and would be willing to perform the procedure if perceived obstacles could be overcome.

“Increased referral of suitable patients by neurologists and improved familiarity with the concept and techniques of migraine surgery may motivate more plastic surgeons to perform migraine surgery,” the authors wrote, adding that more clinical trials are needed to confirm the benefits.

The study appears in the March issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

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