Nerve Stimulation Appears Effective for Treating Chronic Headaches

It almost sounds like science fiction. A revolutionary remote controlled nerve stimulation device implanted in the brain appears effective for treating chronic headaches. The state-of-the-art device, called a bion, may become a new treatment alternative for people that cannot tolerate the side effects of headache medications.

Up to 35 million people in America experience headache. Hemicrania is a type of chronic headache in which people have headaches at least 15 days per month. It is commonly treated with indomethacin. However, for many people indomethacin causes stomach bleeding. The bion may be a treatment alternative that does not involve medication.

The bion is about the size of a matchstick. A minimally invasive surgery is used to implant the bion in the back of the brain near the neck (occipital lobe). The person with the implant uses a wireless remote control to activate the device and to stimulate the occipital nerve.

The bion reduced long-term pain by 80% to 95% in 4 of 6 participants with hemicrania in a small research study. Similar results were found in past studies of the bion for treatment of cluster headaches. Researchers continue to study the use of the bion as an alternative treatment for people with chronic headaches. The investigators are hopeful that in the future the bion will help improve the quality of life for many people.

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