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New medical device helps alleviate chronic migraines

By Lori Tipton 3:44 PM December 12, 2013

"Nerve pacemaker" allows people to monitor their pain

ANCHORAGE – Thirty-six million Americans suffer from migraine headaches . If you’ve ever had one, you know how debilitating they can be. Now, a new device that fits in the palm of your hand can take away the pain.

Megan Doscher has long suffered from chronic migraines, sometimes experiencing two a day.

“It feels like somebody was in my head with drums,” Doscher said.

She recently underwent surgery to receive an occipital nerve stimulator — it’s essentially a nerve packmaker.

Dr. Brian Snyder, a neurosurgeon, implanted two electrodes at the base of Megan’s skull, near the occipital nerve. Wires are placed on either side of the skull.

Those wires attach to a pacemaker just under the skin in Megan’s chest. She uses a remote-controlled device that can increase or decrease the amount of electrical impulses being sent to the nerves in her brain. The more pain, the higher the electrical impulses.

“I just stick it in my purse and I carry it around with me everywhere I go,” Doscher said.

Since receiving the occipital nerve stimulator, Megan has one migraine every two weeks.

“I’m able to have a life now,” she said.

The main risks of the surgery are bleeding, infection and hardware-related minor complications, Snyder said. The surgery is done in two parts — trial and permanent — so the patients who don’t benefit from the trial don’t have the surgery to implant the device.

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