Can a New Magnetic Device Prevent Migraine Headaches?

The results of a study presented June 22, 2006 at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society in Los Angeles may have some migraine sufferers hopeful that relief may be at hand. According to a group of researchers from the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, OH, some sufferers may be a couple of magnetic pulses away from painless, non-pharmacological migraine pain management.

A new magnetic device, called a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) device was shown in preliminary studies to prevent migraines from occurring in many cases, and reduce the severity and duration of the attacks in others.

The magnetic TMS device, which delivers magnetic pulses to the brain right through the skull is portable, allowing migraine sufferers to carry it with them and apply the magnetic pulses at first sign of an advancing migraine headache.

In a teleconference with the media, one of the presenting physicians, Ohio State University Medical Center neurologist Dr. Yousef Mohammad, explained the principles behind the new magnetic device, and how it might be applied to prevent migraine headaches. “Migraine starts because of neuronal hyperexcitability, during which patients see flickering lights or other manifestations of an aura,” Mohammad explained. “The hyperexcitability phase is followed by fatigue and depression of neurons, which spreads throughout the brain, and the result is a pounding headache. We hypothesized that if we could interrupt this cortical spreading depression by administration of TMS, we could abort the headache”

Mohammad and his research team studied eight patients who suffered from migraine headaches. Each of the study participants also experienced what is called the migraine aura, which is the combination of sensory experiences Mohammad was describing, and which, in many migraine sufferers, precipitate the onset of the headache. The study was conducted over a three-month period. The participants experienced a total of thirty-one migraines during this time.

As soon as the study participants experienced signs of a migraine aura, they were instructed to apply the magnetic portable device to the backs of their heads and self-administer two TMS pulses thirty seconds apart. Once the magnetic pulses were applied, the participants were allowed to take any prophylactic medications that they usually use to prevent a migraine, but were dissuaded from using painkillers or triptan medications to treat the migraine headache pain once the headache had started.

According to the results of the study, in 81 percent of the occurrences of migraine headaches experienced by the study participants during the three-month trial, the headaches were gone within two hours of using the new magnetic device. In approximately 75 percent of the migraine headaches experienced during the study, the TMS device effectively eliminated the accompanying nausea and noise and light sensitivities experienced by the migraine sufferers. In 55 percent of migraine attacks, the study participants rated their response to the new TMS magnetic device as very good or excellent.

In a following controlled trial dividing 42 migraine headache sufferers randomly into TMS and control placebo groups, which utilized inactive devices, the efficacy of the study group was reported at 69 percent two hours after delivering the two magnetic pulses to the skull, as opposed to the control group, which experienced similar relief in 48 percent of their occurrences of migraine headaches. There were no adverse side effects experienced by any of the study participants in either of the studies.

Due to the limited scope of the studies conducted, and the unpredictable nature of migraine headaches, more investigation is clearly warranted to determine the efficacy of this new Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation magnetic device, but the initial findings are optimistic for migraine sufferers. Mohammad and his research associates at Ohio State University Medical Center have begun a larger randomized clinical trial, and the new study will include migraine patients who experience migraines with and without aura to test the early findings supporting use of the device.

Source: Reuters

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