Chronic headache sufferers find little relief with most medical therapies currently available. It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of chronic headache sufferers give up on prescription medications due to ineffectiveness or unpleasant side-effects and simply resign to living with their pain. However, there is another option, known as the SphenoCath, that pain specialists, including Dr. Morchower can offer chronic headache sufferers so they find pain relief and improved quality of life.
Located behind the nose is a group of nerve cells that connect to the trigeminal nerve, the main nerve frequently responsible for causing headaches. This group of nerves is called the Sphenopalatine Ganglion (SPG). These nerves carry information about sensation, including pain, and also plays a role in autonomic functions, such as tear production and nasal congestion. Pain specialists and other specialists who manage and treat headache disorders have discovered that the link between the SPG and the trigeminal nerve is important in headache development. Through the application of local anesthetics (numbing medications) the SPG can be blocked or partially blocked which in turn reduces head and facial pain.
First described in the 1900’s, sphenopalatine ganglion blocks used a technique that involved applying numbing medication onto cotton swabs which were then inserted into the back of the nose where the SPG resides. Other SPG block techniques involved using a needle to inject the SPG through an area on the cheek. This method is rather invasive, and usually involved the use of an x-ray machine to correctly place the injection.
Within the past few years, three devices that use thin plastic tubing (a catheter) to insert numbing medication in and around the SPG have been approved of for use in the treatment of chronic headaches by the FDA. These devices are more effective in reducing head and facial pain compared to prior techniques using cotton swabs and they are less invasive than the injection method.
The patented SphenoCath® has made SPG blocks simpler than ever before and allows Dr. Morchower the ability to offer an effective minimally invasive treatment to chronic headache sufferers. The SphenoCath® delivers medication directly to the SPG and can provide long lasting pain relief through just a 15 minute procedure. Quick and comfortable, the SphenoCath® achieves blockage of the sphenopalatine ganglion without needles, cotton swabs, atomizer sprays, or systemic narcotics.
Benefits of the SphenoCath® device
- In office procedure lasting 15 minutes or less
- Quick and comfortable
- Low risk of infection and other complications
- High success rates
- Safe for both adults and children
- Easy to administer
- Great coverage by insurance and Medicare
The Day of the Procedure
General sedation is not usually required for SPG blocks but each situation is different so be sure to discuss sedation options with Dr. Morchower. If sedation is used, you will be required to have someone to drive you home. A nasal spray decongestant may be used prior to the procedure to help reduce irritation in the nose. Prior to the procedure, medication to numb the nose may be given by having you inhale or topically applying a local numbing medication to the inside of the nostrils. This is done for comfort reasons in case one is sensitive to the catheter placement.
After the numbing medication has taken effect, you will be asked to lie down on your back with your head extended. The Sphenocath® device will be gently inserted into one nostril, and advanced to the back of the nose. Then the numbing medication will be injected through a syringe, and the catheter taken out. The procedure is then repeated in the other nostril. Each nostril takes approximately 10-20 seconds to complete. After the procedure you will be encouraged remain lying down for about 15 minutes.
Some mild pressure, discomfort, or feeling the need to sneeze is not uncommon during SPG blocks. With the application of numbing medicine, a brief or quick burning sensation can be expected as well. Reduction in head and/or facial pain may be immediate for some but can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours to occur. Tear production and a flash of temperature often indicates the SPG has been successfully blocked.
*Individual Result May Vary*