New Surgery Helps TBI Patients Recover From Long-Term Headaches

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Source: AJ Gazmen

Marianna Consiglio was just 12 when a lacrosse ball flung into her head left Marianna with a severe concussion which took over a year and a half to recover from. Three years after that, she was still left with debilitating headaches, which no treatment seemed to help.

Four years after her brain injury, Marianna’s mother came across Dr, Ivica Ducic, a Georgetown plastic and peripheral nerve surgeon, who offered to help the Consiglio daughter, as ABC News reports.

Ducic discovered inflamed occipital nerves. The occipital nerves run from the spine to the upper neck and through muscles in the back of the head and into the scalp. Using decompression surgery, which shaved a tiny part of muscle away from around the nerve, Ducic managed to resolve Marianna’s headaches in a couple days, where others had tried and failed for years.

This method of relieving long lasting symptoms isn’t new, but it is not usually used on concussion patients. Instead, it normally is used to treat whiplash patients.

Before Ducic saw benefits from using the decompression therapy on concussion patients, headaches following a brain injury was usually blamed on the injury itself, and few solutions were ever offered. Ducic, and Dr. Kevin Crutchfield, a concussion specialist who refers patients to Ducic, believe the hit which causes concussions could quite likely also leave many patients with severe neck strain similar to whiplash.

When doctors did offer treatment for brain injury related headaches in the past, it almost always came in the form of steroid injections or pain killers. Ducic and Crutchfield wanted to see if it was possible to find a more direct way of resolving the long lasting pain, with more effective methods.

“He went in there,” said Marianna, “and he saw something physical inside my head that he could fix. That was really reassuring because all the doctors had said nothing was wrong and it was all in my head.”

This type of surgery won’t be common place any time soon however. While Ducic’s method is considered to be far from dangerous, as the surgery has a proven medical history which makes it applicable to Ducic’s usage of it, it is also considered unproven in the area of concussion.

Ducic and Crutchfield are attempting to get their data published, with over 50 concussion patients having been treated by Ducic after meeting three strict criteria. Ducic requires patients must have three to six months of lasting headaches, treatment by a headache specialist, and tests to ensure there is no other cause for the headache before Ducic will step in. Still, fifty patients is a relatively low sample size, and the treatment method will have to be explored further before seeing widespread use for concussion patients.

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