60 patients with severe migraine or Horton's headache have undergone the operation. Nearly one in three are now almost completely free of pain and the majority have benefited from the operation. Many are now experiencing an entirely new family and work life following the procedure.
The Horton's headache operation entails the surgeon inserting an electrode with a stimulator about the size of an almond into a nerve cluster behind the upper jaw, just below the eye. The stimulator is attached to the bone in the upper jaw. When the stimulator is activated, up to one in three patients experience full pain relief for periods. Most of the other patients experience significant relief from the pain, which lies behind another name for the disease; "suicide headache".
Jørgen Rostgaard, is a maxillofacial surgeon at the Department of Dental, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Centre for Head and Orthopaedics at Rigshospitalet. In collaboration with Professor Søren Hillerup, he operated on 60 of the 110 patients who have undergone the operation globally. This makes Denmark the global leader for this operation, for which there is great demand in many countries.
Maxillofacial surgeons are trained dental specialists and they have extensive experience in surgical procedures in the jaw and mouth. Therefore, patients experience a more gentle operation, as the electrode is inserted at a specific nerve cluster via the mouth instead of through the skull.
Resume family life
Jørgen Rostgaard is extremely positive about results so far
The average age of the 60 Danish patients operated for migraine and Horton's is 49. The patients are between 24 and 66, and most are males.
"The operation means that many patients can resume a normal family and work life, and they can reduce their medicine consumption," said Jørgen Rostgaard, who has had personal conversations with many of his patients some time after the procedure.
"The patients describe the pain as like being stabbed by a knife through the eye and then having the knife rotated. It is extremely painful. We don't know why patients get this pain. Therefore we hope that this operation will give them a new life, so that they can go to work again, for example," he said.
When patients suffer an attack and the severe pain starts, the stimulator is activated. This is with a piece of technology that resembles a mobile phone, which is put against the cheek where the small electronic device has been lodged. The nerve cluster which causes Horton's headache is stimulated so that the attack is fully or partially relieved.
FACTS about treatment of Horton's headache
Horton's headache is a neurological condition and treatment is therefore under the Danish Headache Center at Glostrup Hospital, headed by Prof. Rigmor Højland Jensen, DMSc. Patients suitable for the procedure are referred from the Center to the Department of Dental, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Rigshospitalet. Jørgen Rostgaard is a maxillofacial surgeon at the Department of Dental, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Centre for Head and Orthopaedics at Rigshospitalet.
Jørgen Rostgaard, maxillofacial surgeon