Patients with chronic migraines could one day have an electric device implanted into their foreheads to control the pain.
Doctors in the United States say they have already used the treatment successfully on one woman, who was suffering from constant headaches.
Theresa Lamesh from Illinois suffered damage to her supraorbital nerve - the nerve that controls sensation in and around the eye - after undergoing surgery on her eye.
The damage caused her to lose the sight in one eye and suffer excruciating pain on a daily basis.
Doctors at the Rush-Presbyterian-St Luke’s Medical Centre in Chicago decided to see if electronic nerve stimulation could help her.
This technique has worked on patients with pain in other parts of the body, such as the back.
It involves connecting the nerve responsible for causing pain to an electric device, usually a battery.
This device sends an electronic signal to the nerve interrupting its own signal and preventing it from causing pain.
The device is controlled by the patient who can turn it on or off by using a special remote control.
Dr Sandeep Amin and colleagues tested the technique on Ms Lamesh, by carrying out a small incision in her temple.
They connected her supraorbital nerve with an external battery pack for five days. The pain in her eye subsided, prompting doctors to carry out a permanent implantation.
Dr Amin implanted a permanent generator in August 2002. Her sight has improved greatly and she is now able to control the pain. “We had used several different procedures to help and none had worked on her chronic eye and forehead pain,” said Dr Amin. “But four months after the surgery, she is able to control her pain by using the implant to deliver continuous or intermittent charge to the leads attached to her supraorbital nerve.” Dr Amin suggested the technique could be used on patients with chronic headaches and migraines in the future.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by David A. Scott, M.D.