Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

What is Migraine Surgery?

In the U.S. alone, 38 million people are affected by migraines and 1 billion people are affected worldwide. Many suffer from recurring migraines despite all of their efforts to make them stop. However, migraine surgery can be an option to stop symptoms or to reduce the pain.

Surgery may sound scary, but this procedure offers an opportunity for a better quality of life.

woman sitting at a computer holding her head as if she has a headache

Why surgery for migraines?

Migraines have been linked to the compression and irritation of major nerves in the face and head. Migraine surgery is a procedure that decompresses those sensory nerves around the skull, which are the most likely source of migraines. This procedure takes about one to five hours depending on the number of trigger sites one has. Harvey Chim, M.D., FACS, associate professor of surgery at the UF College of Medicine, says it helps patients with chronic intractable migraines by providing a permanent solution for pain after other medical options have been tried. According to the Migraine Relief Center, surgically relieving the pressure on those nerves can reduce the frequency, severity and duration of your headaches or even eliminate them altogether.

How does it work?

There are four main trigger sites where patients often experience pain when they have a migraine. This is how migraine surgery can provide pain relief to the following sites:

1. Forehead – You may feel pain around the eyebrows. The main muscles involved in frowning compress nerves. Surgery at this site includes removal of the muscles with an incision at the hairline or through the upper eyelid.

2. Temples – Sometimes the pain is located on either of the temples. Surgery removes the nerves that provide sensations to the temples.

3. Nasal – A deviated septum and enlarged turbinates, which are structures on the side wall of the inside of the nose, can cause pain behind the eyes, giving rise to a migraine. For relief, surgery straightens the septum and decreases the size of the turbinates.

4. Back of the head – Pain at the back of the neck is caused by the compression of the greater occipital nerve. A small incision in the midline of the neck and a nerve decompression provides relief.

What are the results?

According to a recent study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 88 percent of patients who underwent surgical deactivation of targeted trigger sites reported at least a 50 percent reduction in the frequency, severity and duration of their migraine headaches five years later. Thirty-one percent of participants confirmed complete elimination of migraines.

“Patients are very happy after surgery because they have been living with pain for years,” says Chim, who specializes in migraine surgery. “Now, they do not have to deal with the uncertainty of when they will get a migraine headache that might ruin their day.”

Even though most procedures have favorable outcomes, every case and history of the patient is different. If you are considering migraine surgery, make sure to consult with a physician first to see if this procedure is right for you. For more information on migraine surgery at UF Health, visit www.plastics.ufhealth.org/migraine-surgery.

Call 352.265.8402 or contact us today to schedule a consultation.

About the Author

Alisha Katz, APR's picture

Alisha Katz, APR

Marketing Manager

Alisha Katz joined the UF Health Communications team in 2015 and serves as the marketing manager for UF Health Surgical Services, UF Health Shands Transplant Center, UF Health Advanced Lung...Read More