A new device can help healthcare workers treat migraine attacks

A new device can help healthcare workers treat migraine attacks

Brittany Barreto, Ph.D., is a podcaster, entrepreneur, and molecular and human geneticist. (In other words, she’s really smart.) She Read her column here every month to learn what’s happening in the world of technology and innovation in women’s health.

The last time Jenny had a migraine attack, she had a very different experience than she was used to. She had pain relief, but she didn’t feel drugged or nauseous. She was able to drive herself home and was thrilled not to have to miss her daughter’s soccer game that night or her father’s doctor’s appointment in the morning.

In the past, after seeking treatment for a migraine attack, she was sent home with medications that prevented her from showing up for her family and responsibilities. This time, however, Jenny’s doctor used it OcciGuide, a medical device that has recently arrived on the market after years of development and clinical trials. The device treats headaches and migraine attacks without the negative side effects that can occur from taking opioids or other strong pain relievers.

Headaches, migraines and cluster attacks are the fourth most common reason for visits to the emergency department. And migraines affect more women than men. In fact, about 3 out of 4 people migraine sufferers are women. And research shows that women have longer and longer migraine attacks compared to men.

Changes in hormones such as the drop in estrogen before menstruation or fluctuations during perimenopause can lead to an increase in headaches and migraine attacks. As many as 6 out of 10 women report having menstrual migraine attacks.

One of the most common treatments for migraine disease it is pain medicine. Unfortunately though, some of the pain medications can be addictive and overuse can lead to rebound headache attacks. Also, many pain medications such as opioids AND over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) are not recommended for use by pregnant women or can only be used in the first two trimesters.

“While running a pain clinic, I was tired of seeing women sent home so disoriented. I knew they had things to do, kids to take care of, and businesses to run. I wanted to create a tool that allows any healthcare provider with any experience to be able to administer occipital nerve block treatment,” said Jillian Levovitz, co-founder of OcciGuide.

Treatment of occipital nerve block it is generally safe, does not include narcotics, and has no effect on the rest of the body. So why haven’t you heard of it?

Well, not all providers feel comfortable administering that. A small amount of numbing medicine, such as lidocaine, is injected into the occipital nerves at the back of the skull. There are tricks to how healthcare professionals (HCPs) can find these nerves, but many would rather prescribe medication than run the risk of losing the occipital nerve with a needle.

(Photo/courtesy of OcciGuide)

To help healthcare professionals feel more comfortable treating occipital nerve block, Levovitz created the OcciGuide, a device that easily guides any healthcare professional to the correct injection points. OcciGuide is a disposable medical device that looks like a strange pair of headphones. Wraps around the back of the patient’s head with arms resting over the ears. Two holes on the back of the device line up directly with the occipital nerves. This makes injecting the numbing medicine extremely easy and reduces the risk of losing nerves for the healthcare provider. I guess it means less stress for the person receiving the injection too, knowing that the healthcare professional injecting the numbing medicine into the back of the head has a map!

OcciGuide migraine treatment device(Photo/courtesy of OcciGuide)

In the United States it is spent $11 billion a year in direct costs such as medical bills and another $11 billion in indirect costs, such as lost productivity, due to headaches and migraines. Alongside these financial costs are the risks of contributing to opioid addiction. Not only are opioids addictive, but excessive use actually can lead to headaches and migraine attacks that become chronic instead of occasional.

Innovators like Jillian don’t accept the status quo when it comes to treating conditions that disproportionately affect women. We want women to get back on their feet and back to their lives as quickly as possible and with the fewest side effects. Sometimes to create this kind of change, we just need to build a roadmap.

The product and/or service information in this column does not constitute any form of endorsement or recommendation by HealthyWomen. The links are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. This column may occasionally cover companies in which Brittany Barreto is an investor.

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