Although there are many good migraine treatments available for children and pregnant women, the number of well tested treatments is small compared to what is available for the rest of us. This is especially true if the migraine symptoms are severe, and the patient has already tried many of the standard treatments.
One treatment that may help these patients is a sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) block. This simple, out-patient procedure has actually been practised for decades, but it’s benefiting from new technology.
The “new” method is to use a specially designed device, inserted into the nose, to deliver a local aesthetic to the SPG, a nerve bundle.
You may ask – what good is a temporary local aesthetic in fighting migraine? First, the procedure seems to interrupt the “migraine circuit”, bringing almost instant relief in many cases (though not necessarily total relief). But that’s not all – some patients find that it relieves their attacks for months afterwards.
Back in 2015, a study was done in Phoenix (USA) to see how children and teens responded to this treatment. There were 133 procedures performed on 85 patients, using lidocaine as the anesthetic. Scoring migraine pain from 1 to 10, the patients’ pain on average decreased from 5.55 to 3.28, almost immediately. (Study abstract: Safety and efficacy of sphenopalatine ganglion blockade in children – initial experience)
At first this may not seem like a huge improvement. But remember, these are patients who probably have suffered from severe headaches and who have already tried many other treatments. Also remember that improvement will vary – some won’t experience significant relief, while others will improve much more than the average.
But there’s one more thing to keep in mind. This treatment has the potential to fight symptoms for several months afterwards. Although this wasn’t a part of the study, the potential of better health for several months and fewer other medications makes this treatment one to seriously consider.
There is also much less worry about side effects, other than possible irritation to the nasal passage (although your doctor should be fairly careful to minimize the chance of this).
The sphenopalatine ganglion block is a treatment that should be seriously considered in pregnancy and for children and teens. But it’s not limited to those groups. Anyone with severe migraine that is not responding to the front line treatments may benefit.
One of the devices that is used for the SPG block (and the one used in the study above) is the SphenoCath. The brief promotional video below shows how the SphenoCath works and what the benefits are. Keep reading below the video if you’re interested in seeing the actual procedure being performed.