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Friday, June 1, 2012

“Nerve Pacemaker” Helps Chronic Migraine Sufferers Acheive Freedom From Pain

“Nerve Pacemaker” Helps Chronic Migraine Sufferers Acheive Freedom From Pain

Dr. Brian Snyder of Neurological Surgery, P.C. Uses Occipital Nerve Stimulation When Medications Fail

Rockville Centre, NY (PRWEB) June 01, 2012
A relatively new treatment known as occipital nerve stimulation significantly decreases the severity and frequency of headaches in patients suffering from debilitating chronic migraines. The treatment is used by Brian J. Snyder, M.D., attending neurosurgeon with Neurological Surgery, P.C., when medical therapies fail to provide relief.

“Many suffer daily with severe migraines, without relief,” says Dr. Snyder. “Occipital nerve stimulation has been studied extensively, and can provide significant relief to patients whose migraines do not respond to medication.”

Occipital nerve stimulation involves delivering a small electrical charge over the region of the occipital nerves through an implanted device. The device resembles a cardiac pacemaker, except that it is used to stimulate nerves overlying the skull rather than the heart. It is implanted in the chest wall like a cardiac pacemaker and controlled via a remote control device. The doctor uses a programmer to set up the stimulation programs.

The device is first tried using temporary leads. Adjustments are then made, and if the device works well for the patient, permanent leads are implanted a week later. Recuperation time is brief.

There is one greater occipital nerve on each side of the head. Emerging from between bones of the spine in the upper neck, the two occipital nerves make their way through muscles at the back of the head and into the scalp. Although the pain relief mechanism is not entirely understood, occipital nerve stimulation may influence centers deep in the brain that are responsible for pain modulation.
One patient of Dr. Snyder’s who was recently helped by this device is E.W. of Long Island. E.W. suffered from daily migraines so debilitating they left her unable to work or care for her family. She was bedridden much of the time and required multiple hospitalizations, in which she received intravenous medications. Her migraines could last 10-15 days, and there was nothing that would stop them.

Just weeks after her second procedure, E.W. is now pain free. “Dr. Snyder was a lifesaver,” she says.
There are currently three large-scale randomized, placebo-controlled trials of occipital nerve stimulation, the largest being the Occipital Nerve Stimulation for the Treatment of Intractable Migraine (ONSTIM) study, sponsored by Medtronic. Preliminary findings from ONSTIM were published in 2010, showing significant migraine relief for severely debilitated patients who regularly experienced headaches for 15 days or more a month and were not responsive to medical therapies.
A number of nerve stimulators, known as “neurostimulation” or “neuromodulation” devices, are currently on the market. These devices are FDA approved for various neurostimulation uses, but are not yet cleared for occipital nerve stimulation. The government allows their use “off-label” if the physician feels it is in the patient’s best interest and they are approved for other uses. Occipital nerve stimulation has been in use since the 1990s, and has been studied extensively.

“Many patients with chronic migraines and other types of pain who are not responsive to non-surgical treatment may benefit from neurostimulation devices,” says Dr. Snyder. “This is an important new treatment option.”

According to the American Migraine Foundation, 36 million Americans suffer from migraines. Migraines are three times more common in women than in men, and nearly a third of women experience migraine in their lifetimes. The World Health Organization places migraine as one of the top 20 disabling conditions on the planet, and chronic migraine is even more disabling. Chronic migraine, which affects 3.2 million Americans, is a severely debilitating headache that occurs 15 or more days a month for at least six consecutive months.

Brian J. Snyder, M.D. is a neurosurgeon who specializes in treating chronic pain, seizure disorders and epilepsy, as well as movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, tremor and dystonia. He is a leading practitioner of deep brain stimulation (DBS), having trained under Dr. Andres Lozano, perhaps the world’s foremost DBS authority. He also has extensive expertise in vagal nerve stimulation and procedures for mapping, recording and identifying seizure foci in the brain, and in the surgical resection of these foci. Dr. Snyder uses a number of types of neuromodulation techniques and devices for chronic pain, including spinal cord stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation (including occipital nerve stimulation), deep brain stimulation and implantable drug pumps. He is certified in both Gamma Knife® and CyberKnife® radiosurgery.

About Neurological Surgery, P.C.
Neurological Surgery, P.C. is one of the New York City area’s premier neurosurgical groups, offering patients the most advanced treatments of brain and spine disorders. These include minimally invasive procedures such as stereotactic radiosurgery (Gamma Knife® and CyberKnife®), aneurysm coiling, neuro-endoscopy, spinal stimulators, carotid stents, interventional pain management, microdiscectomy, kyphoplasty, and X-STOP®. The practice’s physicians represent a range of surgical and nonsurgical specialties, combining compassionate care with highly specialized training. They are leaders in the region’s medical community, with appointments as chiefs of neurosurgery in some of Long Island’s best hospitals. NSPC offers nine convenient locations in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. For more information, call 1-800-775-7784 or visit

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