Can a Brow Lift Cosmetic Procedure Help Treat Migraines?

April 07, 2015

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, the statistics regarding the number of migraine sufferers are staggering. Approximately one in four U.S. households includes a migraine sufferer. This means that more than 10 percent of the U.S. population (including adults and children) suffers from migraines. Of these, three times as many women as men have migraines (18 percent versus 6 percent). Unfortunately, migraines tend to strike adults most often between the ages of 25 and 55, in what should be their peak years of productivity. As a result, American employers lose more than $13 billion each year as a result of 113 million lost work days due to migraines.

In the face of all this, migraine sufferers almost certainly want to find as much relief as possible. Standard treatments generally include various medications, as well as neurosurgery, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) units, and various alternative therapies such as biofeedback, massage therapy, and chiropractic adjustments. However, an article published in the August 2009 issue of the Plastic Reconstructive Surgery journal points to some interesting research that a cosmetic surgical procedure designed to remove lines and wrinkles from around the eyes and forehead may also provide migraine sufferers with a form of relief.

Brow Lift Cosmetic Procedure

Before discussing the research findings, it is first important to understand what is involved in a brow lift cosmetic surgical procedure. A brow lift is meant to diminish the appearance of lines and wrinkles around the forehead, brow, and corners of the eyes. Unlike BOTOX® injections, which are meant to diminish the appearance of fine lines, a brow lift procedure removes deeper creases and furrows from the upper third of the face.

In the procedure, one incision (or a series of small incisions) is made from behind one ear, following the hairline, possibly extending behind the ears. The skin and underlying tissue are then gently lifted away, pulled tight, re-draped over the skull, and then sutured back into place.

Treatment for Migraines

In the research article, a modified version of a brow lift procedure was performed on 49 patients with moderate to severe migraines. In the modified procedure, certain nerves were cut in order to stop migraines. In some cases, these were the same nerves that would be severed to lessen the appearance of either crow’s feet around the outside corner of the eyes or furrows in the forehead. These patients were compared to another group of migraine sufferers who did not receive the surgery (sometimes called placebo, or sham surgery).

By the end of 12 months after the surgery, 57 percent of the sham surgery patients reported a 50 percent reduction in migraines, as compared to 83 percent of patients who received the actual surgery. Furthermore, 57 percent of the actual surgery patients reported a complete elimination of migraine headaches, compared to only 4 percent of those who received the sham surgery.

Of course, a brow lift procedure to reduce the severity of migraines should be very carefully planned and coordinated between the patient’s neurologist and Drs. Marcus Crawford and Steven Bailey in order to assure that the patient is a good candidate for such a procedure. Nevertheless, this research offers a ray of hope to the millions of adult migraine sufferers. 

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