Hilde Vollan, a PhD candidate in bioinformatics at the University of Oslo found her life turned upside down 4 years ago when she began having cluster headaches. “For years, I have tried to hide when the pain takes over, because people are scared and shocked to see me suffer such pain. But I’ve stopped hiding now. It’s not my fault that I get such bad headaches,” she says.

Now, Vollan will participate in a study at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) where she will help in the testing of Botox as a new treatment for cluster headache.

“People who get these headaches daily are crippled by the pain. It’s an extremely challenging disease for both doctors and patients,” says Erling Tronvik, NTNU senior consultant and researcher. Scientists don’t know why people get cluster headaches. While many people have found relief from injections of migraine medicine, and the use of oxygen, these treatments don’t help everyone. Many patients are left with an immense sense of helplessness.

While migraine headaches afflict more women than men, cluster headaches occur far more often in men. Some people have daily attacks for a few months each year, while others have attacks several times a day, every day.

However, new hope may be on the way. Tronvik, along with physician Daniel Bratbak at St. Olavs Hospital, and Professor Stale Nordgard at NTNU have come up with a new treatment using Botox. They have developed an instrument that resembles a pistol with a very thin barrel. The barrel is inserted up through the nose, and by passing through a natural hole in the nasal wall, the mouth of the barrel comes to a bundle of nerves behind the sinuses.

When the surgeon pulls the trigger of the pistol, a dose of Botox goes into the nerve bundle. The procedure uses an MRI of the patient’s head to make sure that the surgeon knows exactly where the nerve bundle is. A navigation tool on the pistol, as well as a plate with three spheres positioned on the patient’s head enables the surgeon to find just the right spot.

An unrelated study has shown positive results by using an electric current to paralyse the nerve bundle. Tronvik believes those findings may help to substantiate his research.

Says Tronvik, “We hope that this treatment method can give patients a life without such great pain.”       Science Daily    11/1/13


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