New Treatment May Ease Frequent Migraines in Kids

A minimally invasive treatment for migraine headaches used for adults is also proving to be a safe and effective treatment for children and teenagers, according to research presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting.

What’s even better, according to researchers, is that it only takes minutes for a child to feel relief.

Migraines affect 12 percent of people 12 and older. They can be especially debilitating in teenagers and often disrupt everyday activities, such as school, music, and sports, researchers say.

The treatment — sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) block — does not involve needles touching the patient. Instead, a small flexible catheter is inserted into each nostril and local anesthetic is administered to the SPG, a nerve bundle thought to be associated with migraines, located at the back of the nose.

Briefly disabling the SPG can disrupt and reset the headache circuit, breaking a cycle of severe migraines and reducing the need for medication, according to the researchers.

The minimally invasive SPG block takes almost immediate effect with relief potentially lasting for months, researchers add.

“This treatment, performed in an outpatient setting by an interventional radiologist, can safely relieve a child’s migraine quickly,” said Robin Kaye, M.D., section chief of interventional radiology in the department of medical imaging at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and a co-author of the study. “By reducing the need for medications that come with serious side effects or intravenous therapies that may require hospital stays, children don’t have to miss as much school and can get back to being a kid sooner.”

The researchers note that SPG blocks are not a frontline treatment. A child only qualifies for the therapy if he or she has been diagnosed with a severe migraine that has not responded to first-line treatments.

For the study, the researchers conducted 310 treatments in 200 patients between the ages of seven and 18 at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Patients’ pain levels before the intervention were recorded on a scale of 1 to 10. Ten minutes after the treatment, patients were asked to compare their pain level, using the same scale. The researchers saw a statistically significant decrease in the headache scores, with average pain score reduction of just more than two points on the 10-point scale.

“While it isn’t a cure for migraines, this treatment has the potential to really improve the quality of life for many children,” said Kaye. “It can be performed easily, without complications, and gives quick pain relief, which is important to parents who want to see their children happy, healthy and pain free again. If needed, we can also repeat the treatment if or when the migraine returns.

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