For the first time in the United States doctors have surgically inserted a small neurostimulator behind the cheekbone of a patient in an attempt to treat cluster headaches, which are more rare and more painful than migraines. Paul Alterio, a 39-year old father of two from Lexington, Ohio underwent the procedure at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“With the pain that I’ve felt for the last 4 years, I was willing to try anything,” said Alterio, who has “cluster” headaches 2-3 times a day, lasting up to 3 hours each. “They are among the most painful experiences known to man, which is why it’s important to look at options to help these patients,” said Dr. Ali Rezai, director of the Neuroscience program at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. While not involved in the clinical trial, he has been involved in the scientific development of this technology and has a financial interest in the company.
The small neurostimulator has a wire that feeds directly into the nerves associated with cluster headaches. When patients feel a headache coming on, they hold a hand-held device, much like a cell phone, over their cheek to activate the stimulator designed to “turn off” the headache process.