TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Anyone who has ever had a migraine knows how debilitating it can be.
Imagine having a migraine that never goes away; that kind of pain is known as “chronic daily headaches” and thousands of Americans are afflicted with it.
Now a team of Texas doctors is using a groundbreaking new surgery to end that pain, and in the process give patients their lives back.
It wasn’t so long ago that Kristi Chavarria couldn’t enjoy the simple pleasure of watching her daughter’s ride their bikes. “I spent more time in bed and laying on the couch than I could care to remember,” recalled Chavarria.
The Mansfield wife and mother was in a constant state of pain for nearly a decade.
“I had one right above this little knot in the back of your head, and then right above my right eye, and it was just excruciating pain in both areas,” she said. “It’s as although your head is completely in a vise, and just tightened down, and (you) have someone jab you with a poker right in those two spots.”
It was so bad, the 15 or so Tylenol and ibuprofen pills she took each day didn’t mute the pain. Even the specialists she’d visited couldn’t help her.
“It’s extremely frustrating, and it’s depressing,” she said. That is until she learned about nerve decompression – a surgery being performed by Houston plastic surgeon Dr. Carlton Perry.
“All the patients sound the same,” said Dr. Perry. “They just have this laundry list of failed treatments.”
Dr. Perry, working in tandem with neurologist Dr. Pamela Blake, learned of a connection between chronic daily headaches and scar tissue buildup on nerves under the scalp. “I think we understand better the relationship between the nerves in and around the head and neck on the outside, and how they relate to nerves on the inside,” Dr. Perry said.
Dr. Blake said he was a bit skeptical at first. “I couldn’t understand why doing something mechanical to the nerves outside of the head should make a difference, but clearly it did.”
Five years ago, the team began performing nerve decompression surgery. “We go in there and find the nerves that are causing the problem, and we take that scare tissue off and it decompresses them,” Dr. Perry explained.
“The nerves are supposed to be rounded, kind of like spaghetti, and instead they’re just flattened out, and they’re yellow,” said Dr. Blake. “The normal blood flow is not present around the nerve.”
Dr. Blake says once blood flow is restored to the nerve most patients can recover, although not everyone does.
“If we really get people that have had their headache less than five years we were 82-percent successful,” said Dr. Perry.
Kristi Chavarria had two surgeries – one at the base of her skull and one at the front. And, while she says she still gets headaches from time to time, at least now she’s able to treat them with medication.
“It’s given me my life back,” she said. “Getting this relief has been kind of new to [the family], and they’re seeing kind of a different new me again.”
Drs. Perry and Blake are among only a few doctors in the country performing this kind of surgery. To learn more, or to find out if you’re a candidate, visit the Chronic Daily Headache website.