LAKE CHARLES, La. - If you suffer from migraines; you know the only thing you care about while your head pounds are finding relief.
While medications work for some, NBC’s Britney Glaser reports that others are left fighting the pain. See how a nerve numbing procedure can take away the brain pain.
For as long as she can remember, 20-year-old Karlee Howard has had migraines.
"It was like a stabbing, dull, all the time aching pain in the back of my head that would never go away," Patient, Karlee Howard, explains.
By seventh grade, Karlee was finally diagnosed with a birth defect called "Chiari Malformation," a condition where her brain could not fit inside her skull.
Karlee says, “I couldn't walk, I couldn't talk, I couldn't feed myself. I learned sign language to communicate with my mother. “
Karlee had a piece of her skull cut out and a mesh patch put in the back of her skull to relieve the pressure. Her condition improved, but not the migraines.
“Nobody could figure out what to do. Nobody could really help me,” Karlee says.
Karlee tried acupuncture, massages and prescription medicine; but nothing worked.
Interventional pain specialist Seth Billiodeaux with the Memorial Medical Group, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, was tasked with identifying the nerve causing Karlee's migraines.
“I was able to numb up the third occipital nerve around her spine. She then reported her pain relief over a two to three day period,” Dr. Seth Billodeaux, Pain Specialist, said.
Her relief was significant, so Dr. Billiodeaux moved forward with a radiofrequency ablation; using heat and electricity to permanently numb the problematic nerve.
Dr. Seth Billodeaux says, “Once I place this needle here, we heat the tip of this needle, which is able to ablate or permanently numb this nerve.”
Three needles were used at the top, middle and bottom of the nerve. It took about 15 minutes to complete under mild anesthesia.
“I figured that I'd wake up and five days later I would have a headache again, but that hasn't happened. I've been 100 percent no headache, Horward says.
Karlee had the radiofrequency ablation in July and has not had a migraine since then.
The size of the needle is about the size of a pencil point.
There is a chance that there will be numbness on the head where the ablation happened.