Suffering from migraines?

UPHS-Marquette uses device to reduce headache, facial pain

Alisha Wasilewski, a physician assistant in the UP Health System Neurology Department, holds a medical device used to inject the pain reliever lidocaine into a patient’s nostrils to reduce the pain associated with migraine headaches. (Photo courtesy of UP Health System-Marquette)

Improving the quality of life for headache sufferers comes through a small but effective device being used by UP Health System-Marquette medical providers.

Alisha Wasilewski, a Physician Assistant in the UPHS Neurology Department, said she has treated more than 100 patients with the device which is called a sphenocath.

It has worked wonders for migraine sufferers and those who experience other types of headaches, as well as those who suffer from other kinds of facial pain.

“I’ve been using it for almost 2 years and it has been available for use in the U.S. for 7 years or so,” Wasilewski said. “With the device, lidocaine (a pain reliever) is injected into the nostrils.”

But no needles are involved, taking an element of fear away for many.

“Patients tell me that after the injection, at first it’s a little bit like having pool water in your nose,” Wasilewski said. “Relief from headache or facial pain comes for some in as little as 3 minutes.”

The relief experienced can last a few days in some but in others, can last a few months.

The treatment is for those who experience a range of facial pain and for those who are being treated for concussion.

“It can be used for headaches post-concussion and it’s a big help to athletes or really anyone who has had a concussion, say from a fall on the ice,” Wasilewski said.

What’s more, there are few restrictions on who is eligible to try the procedure.

“There are no contraindications,” Wasilewski said. “It has been approved for use in children down to age 7 and there is no upper age limit. … And it’s localized, so (the lidocaine) is not absorbed systematically. There is no ‘foggy feeling’ after the treatment, that weird feeling you may have with other medications. Right after treatment, you can drive, you can go back to work. I have some patients come in on their lunch break for this treatment.”

It’s safe to be used during pregnancy as well.

Many patients have expressed great satisfaction after being treated with the sphenocath.

“I would say the majority of people have been pleased with the treatment. Some come back as a prevention for migraines every other week, some once a month,” Wasilewski said. “For a handful of patients, it has not worked, so the treatment is taken right off the table and is not pursued any further.”

Anyone who would like to know more about the treatment using the sphenocath device can talk to their primary physician or call the neurology office at 906-225-3993.

“We would be happy to talk with them and to send them brochures so they can learn more about it,” Wasilewski said.

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