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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 23:42 GMT 00:42 UK
Electrical pulse to aid migraine
Migraine device
The device is used during the first stages of migraine
An electronic device may help 'zap' away migraine pain before it starts, US research suggests.

The hand-held device creates a short-lived electromagnetic field which 'interrupts' the migraine.

At the American Headache Society meeting researchers said the device was effective in treating nausea, noise and light sensitivity.

UK experts said the findings were interesting but warned it needed to be tested in a much larger study.

People who suffer from migraine headaches often describe seeing showers of shooting stars, zigzagging lines and flashing lights, and experiencing loss of vision, weakness, tingling or confusion.

These neural disturbances or 'auras' signal the onset of migraine headaches.

"Perhaps the most significant effect of using the TMS device was 84% of the episodes in patients using the TMS occurring without noise sensitivity"
Dr Yousef Mohammad, lead researcher

The device, called TMS, delivers a strong electric current through a metal coil, which creates an intense magnetic field for about one millisecond.

The theory is that the electrical charge interrupts the aura phase of the migraine before it leads to headaches.

Currently patients are treated with painkillers or triptans - the first group of drugs designed to treat the causes of migraine rather than the symptoms.

In 23 patients who were treated with the TMS device, 69% reported to have either no or mild pain two hours after treatment compared with 48% of the placebo group.

And 42% of the TMS-treated patients graded their lack of symptoms as very good or excellent compared to 26% for placebo.

The vast majority TMS-treated patients had no noise sensitivity and over half had no light sensitivity.


Nausea was also reduced in 88% of TMS-patients compared with 56% of patients treated with a dummy device.

Lead researcher Dr Yousef Mohammad, a neurologist at Ohio State University Medical Center said: "Perhaps the most significant effect of using the TMS device was on the two-hour symptom assessment, with 84% of the episodes in patients using the TMS occurring without noise sensitivity.

"Work functioning also improved, and there were no side effects reported," he said.

A second study of 12 patients found it was feasible for people to use self-administer the electric current using the device at the onset of migraine.

The researchers are now planning a further study in a larger number of patients.

Ann Turner, director of the Migraine Action Association said: "The Association welcomes this new approach to migraine treatment and the results of this initial trial are encouraging.

"However more research in a wider population is required before it can be considered as an addition to the treatment options available to migraine sufferers generally."

Dr Andrew Dowson, director of headache services at Kings College Hospital said the device wouldn't be regarded as 'mainstream medicine' but that it was interesting.

He added that migraines used to be thought of as a problem with constriction of blood vessels but more recently it had become apparent that neural pathways were also involved.

"Since the triptan drugs were developed there hasn't been a big breakthrough in the treatment of migraines and this type of research is the only way we are going to find the next breakthrough.

"The results are somewhat modest though and it's a small study. I would like to see a study done in a much bigger population."

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