Most of us have suffered from some form of headache, but for about 375,000 people the suffering is unbearable. Included in this number are those plagued with cluster headaches- a class of headache characterized by episodes of swelling, tearing, and intense pain. Taking an aspirin is not sufficient pain relief, and other treatments such as oxygen therapy are not ideal for many of the afflicted. Luckily, medical device giant Autonomic Technologies is currently conducting trials on a new treatment.
How Does it Work?
Doctors have found that when stimulated, the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) nerve bundle located behind the nose can be effective in managing the pain associated with cluster headaches. The new system developed by Autonomic Technologies allows patients to control energy that is sent directly to this area- but how?
This is where the true innovation of the new technology comes in. The first part of the system is a small neurotransmitter is implanted into the area deep behind the patient's nose (where the SPG nerve bundle is located) on the same side that headache the pain occurs. Implanted through a small incision in the upper gum line, the “smaller than an almond” neurotransmitter leaves no visible scar on the patient. The second part of the system is a handheld remote, which the patient simply activates to start and stop treatment.
Will Electronic Aspirin Be a New Standard?
Researchers are still in the early stages of conducting studies, so we probably won't be seeing electronic aspirin as a replacement to traditional pills anytime soon. Referring to the ATI Neurostimulation System as “Electronic Aspirin” has gained popularity - but the scope of the technology is actually limited to cluster headaches that do not respond well to aspirin in the first place. In addition, a medically implanted device is required, which requires a facial surgery that comes with its own set of risks.
This particular technology is definitely putting us on the path to where a true electronic painkiller could be developed, but we are still far from having a device that is widely accepted for treating everyday headaches. In the meantime, studies for the ATI Neurostimulation System are still underway and headache treatment centers are constantly looking for individuals to assist with research. If you suffer from chronic cluster headaches, you can find out more on the Pathway CH-2 Cluster Headache study here.