For the millions of migraine and cluster headache sufferers in the world, a new migraine remedy is on the way. A California-based company, Autonomic Technologies, has developed an implant that stimulates the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) nerve cluster. This cluster is thought to be attributed to nasal problems, migraines, cluster headaches and other miscellaneous pains in the head and face areas.
Stimulation of the SPG has been one of the most studied neuromodulation techniques in recent years. While it seemed to have a successful start with a 59 percent efficacy rate, placebo tests have failed.
One of the issues with these types of devices is the time it takes to pass through the FDA screening process. The FDA recently created the Medical Device Innovation Consortium, which is responsible for simplifying the processes of designing and testing new technologies.
Autonomic Technologies has been approved to treat migraine and cluster headaches in Europe, and the company is currently waiting for the FDA to approve them for testing in the U.S. The tests performed in Europe were the largest randomized, controlled neurostimulation studies performed. The end result showed an overall clinical improvement in 68 percent of patients. In this case, a clinical improvement means more than a 50 percent reduction in pain and over a 50 percent reduction in frequency. Other impressive numbers include the following: a 67 percent reduction in pain within 15 minutes, significant pain reduction in 15, 30, 60 and 90 minute intervals, and an 88 percent reduction in attack frequency in 43 percent of patients.
How it Works
A small nerve stimulation device is surgically installed into the upper gum area where the pain mainly frequents. The lead tip of the device is connected to the SPG bundle. When a person feels the beginning of a headache starting, they take a small remote control device, place it on their cheek and turn it on. The remote control device activates the stimulation device, which shoots signals into the SPG and blocks the pain-causing neurotransmitters. In turn, this reduces or totally blocks the pain signals to the brain. It looks like a true migraine remedy that works in the majority of cases.
Although the electronic aspirin is surgically implanted into the patient's head, there is still a need for a medtech. Medtechs will need to know about the remote control device and symptoms to look for in case there is an issue with the implant. Eventually asking new patients if they have an electronic aspirin installed will be as common as asking if they have a pacemaker.