New procedure cures teen's two-year long headache

Print
Email
|

by NBC News

KING5.com

Posted on December 26, 2010 at 7:18 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Ninth grader Blair Rowand was sitting in class when a debilitating headache suddenly set in.

"The worst pain I've ever been in," she recalls.

She took pain relievers and tried to sleep it off, but it didn't go away.

The pain lasted for days, which turned into months, then years.

"As we started to go to doctors, all of a sudden they started looking at, let's check your eyes. Is it a brain tumor? And they put her in the hospital and did a spinal tap and did MRI's," says Blair's father, Mike.

Blair visited different doctors who tested her for all sorts of problems, but no one could find a diagnosis and the pain continued.

It was taking a toll on her life.

She was no longer full of smiles and laughter.

She had to drop out of sports and was taken out of honors classes.

"I didn't do anything else but sleep," she says. "I couldn't go anywhere. Couldn't drive a car because everything was a distraction or like my mind couldn't focus on anything."

After two years of suffering, doctors told her she would be forced to live with the pain for the rest of her life.

Then she came across plastic surgeon Dr. Ivan Ducic at Georgetown University Hospital.

He was performing a new surgery that was curing chronic headaches.

Instead of relying on CAT scans and MRIs, Ducic did a physical examination of Blair's head.

He found tender areas in the back of her neck that he believed were compressed nerves causing her headache.

"She had a pinched nerve in the back of her head called occipital nerves and a condition then is termed as occipital neuralgia," Dr. Ducic explained.

Ducic said surgery could decompress those nerves, alleviating her pain.

"You find the pinching point around the nerves, either in the muscle or tight tunnel or vessel and you separate away from the nerve, like you unroot the nerve from anything sitting on it, pinching it," he says.

Ducic says the surgery has an 80 percent success rate.

That was enough to convince Blair and her family.

She underwent surgery last spring.

"We walked into the recovery area and we could see on her face immediately. You know it was like a light switch, the tension was gone from her face," says Mike Rowand.

Blair says she felt relief as soon as she came out of surgery and the pain hasn't returned since.

"I enjoy school now. I like the fact that I actually get to go. I just spend time with all the people that I can because I've got two years to make up for," she says.

Dr. Ducic says he believes there could be a lot of people suffering from this condition and they have no idea.

To be eligible for surgery, patients must have been suffering from headaches for at least six months.

They should already be under the care of a headache or pain specialist.
 

Print
Email
|