Reporting Cynthia Demos
MIAMI (CBS4) — There’s a revolutionary new way to treat chronic headaches; a problem that affects 45-million Americans. It’s nickname is the headache zapper.
Carrie Preston, 30, is planning her wedding while her brain is getting zapped.
“It’s definitely a different feeling. It doesn’t get in the way of anything. It’s just sort of in the background,” said Carrie.
Preston said a tingling feeling in her head has replaced excruciating headache pain that almost ruined her life.
“It would be just shooting, throbbing, stabbing type pain,” she recalled.
For years, Preston suffered with cluster migraine headaches that often got so bad she had to be hospitalized to get IV medications that would temporarily ease the pain but nothing really worked.
Desperate, she turned to Dr. Ashwini Sharan, a neurosurgeon.
He treated her with a device similar to a cardiac pacemaker, but this one targets nerves in the brain and requires surgery with general anesthesia.
The pacemaker is connected to a wire that’s internally threaded just under the skin into her forehead where electrical impulses are delivered.
“We’re firing them so high that we’re actually preventing the way the nerves should be working. We’re actually inhibiting the nerves. We are suppressing her ability to sense the headache,” explained Dr. Sharan.
It’s called Occipital Nerve Stimulation and it tricks nerves in the brain so the pain is no longer felt.
Preston has had the pacemaker for two years now.
The headaches aren’t completely cured, but she said the pain has been significantly reduced.
“It’s been amazing. I couldn’t say enough wonderful things about it. It definitely had a tremendous impact on my life.”
The pacemaker is charged with an external battery every two weeks and it can be adjusted or turned off completely and removed.
The procedure is covered by some insurance plans.