High-tech migraine treatments come to KC

Posted at 12:01 PM, Mar 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-21 09:31:33-04

The National Headache Foundation estimates roughly 37 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches.

More women than men suffer symptoms, which can include a combination of nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise.

The exact cause of different headaches is still unclear.

For those who find their migraine pain debilitating and chronic, the University of Kansas Hospital offers cutting-edge treatments that have only been approved in the last couple of years.

Diane Franklin has been suffering from headaches for the last seven months.  

"On a scale of 1 to 10, usually about a 6 is what I go to bed with, which in some cases might not sound bad, but when that's all you have and that's what you think about all day long, it's hard," she said.

She is a perfect candidate to receive the SphenoCath.

Dr. Zach Collins, the only doctor in the metro to use the SphenoCath, uses what he calls an “inelegant catheter” that goes up the nasal passage. 

"What we're trying to do is a nerve block," he said. "Basically, we're administering high-strength lidocaine in that area to numb up those nerves, to basically relieve someone's headache. What we do know is that it works for migraines. It works for chronic daily headaches. It's not as good for things like tension or cluster headaches."

The non-invasive procedure, which is usually covered by insurance, takes about five minutes. Only a dab of topical cream is applied to numb the surface of the nose.

“Actually, my doctor explained it would be painful, but it really wasn't," said Franklin. "It was uncomfortable but really wasn't painful."

Patients like Franklin spend another five minutes in recovery before going home.

Dr. Collins says he’s seen patients come in with pain at a level “10” and leave with a “1.”

That relief can last anywhere from weeks to months, after which, patients would have to go in for another SphenoCath procedure.

The other treatment doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital are prescribing for their patients is the Cefaly device.

Neurologist Dr. Deetra Ford said users wear it like a headband.

“It's basically an electronic stimulation to your nerves," she said. "And we think that is where possibly the headaches start originating from, and that is able to then stop that process."

There are a few things to consider. The FDA-approved Cefaly device is for migraine prevention only, and users must wear it 20 minutes every day for it to be effective.

It costs about $350 and is not covered by most insurance plans, but you still need a prescription from your doctor to use it.

However, Ford pointed out: “It's a very good option for people not looking for a chronic oral daily medication to prevent their headaches in that regard. It does require more studies because so far, we know that the device is no better than oral medications, and they still are a little more efficacious than the device is right now."

If you suffer from migraines or frequent headaches, you should see a neurologist before seeking these new treatments.  They might recommend triptans or other medications, meditation or biofeedback before pursuing advanced treatments like SphenoCath or even Botox. 


Jane Monreal can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter

Connect on Facebook