Electronic Aspirin

For people who suffer from migraines, cluster headaches, and other causes of chronic, excruciating head or facial pain, the “take two aspirins and call me in the morning” method is useless. Doctors have long associated the most severe, chronic forms of headache with the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), a facial nerve bundle, but haven’t yet found a treatment that works on the SPG long-term.

A technology under clinical investigation at Autonomic Technologies, Inc., (Redwood City, CA) is a patient-powered tool for blocking SPG signals at the first sign of a headache. The system involves the permanent implant of a small nerve stimulating device in the upper gum on the side of the head normally affected by headache. The lead tip of the implant connects with the SPG bundle, and when a patient senses the onset of a headache, he or she places a handheld remote controller on the cheek nearest the implant. The resulting signals stimulate the SPG nerves and block the pain-causing neurotransmitters.

For patients, the implant procedure to get the almond-size device implanted is almost as easy as a wisdom tooth extraction, Papay said. The device is inserted into a group of nerves, called the sphenopalatine ganglion, situated behind the nasal passages and eye sockets, Papay said.

That group of nerves, he said, is actually outside the brain.

“There are a lot of theories why we get headaches, but no one knows exactly why,” Papay said. “The brain itself only perceives pain. It does not have pain receptors inside it. When you have a headache, you don’t have a brain-ache. You probably have pain from the covering of the brain or these nerves that surround the covering of the brain.”

The implanted device has a tiny tail that sits against the nerves. When patients feel headaches coming on, they simply hold a smartphone-sized remote control to their cheek that sends a radio signal to the implanted device. That triggers a slight electrical charge to stimulate nerve cells.

“It’s an impulse that’s so minor that the patient may feel it a little tiny bit, but it’s not to the point where they feel any pain or distress,” Dr. Papay said. “It’s almost unperceivable.”

Trial data also shows that many patients also experienced a decline in headache frequency.

Courtesy : https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/bioengineering/top-5-medical-technology-innovations

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