Page last updated at 00:33 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Hand-held device on trial for migraine sufferers

The new hand-held device which delivers a magnetic pulse to migraine patients
The hand-held device tested in the trial can be used at home

A new hand-held device that delivers a magnetic pulse to the back of the head could become an alternative to drug treatment for people with migraines.

A trial found that 40% of patients were pain free two hours after using the device.

Research showed there were no serious side-effects and patients found the device easy to use at home.

However, doctors say more research is needed to work out the timing of the doses.

Experts from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York carried out the trial to assess the safety and effectiveness of the device.

Previous trials have only involved large, expensive devices which have to be used in a clinic.

Electrical events

The hand-held device emits a single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (sTMS), thought to disrupt the electrical events in the brain which cause the preliminary symptoms of migraines with aura.

Migraine and headache are the least publicly funded of all neurological conditions in the UK
Wendy Thomas,
The Migraine Trust

Auras are sensory or visual disturbances that occur before a migraine headache sets in.

These include visual symptoms such as spots of light and zigzag lines. Other symptoms include tingling, numbness and difficulties with speaking.

Two hundred patients were asked to use the device to treat migraines with aura over three months. Half of those patients were given placebo treatment.

The findings, to be published in The Lancet Neurology, showed that the real magnetic pulse from the device was significantly more effective than placebo treatment. More patients were pain free two, 24 and 48 hours afterwards.

They affect about 18% of women and 6% of men in the USA and Western Europe
There are two major forms of migraine - with aura and without aura.
Migraine with aura affects about 20-30% of patients
Migraine with aura is characterised by symptoms which usually precede the onset of a headache

Dr Hans-Christoph Diener, from University Hospital Essen in Germany, said: "The use of sTMS could be a major step forward in the treatment of migraine with aura, particularly in patients in whom presently available drug treatment is ineffective."

Wendy Thomas, chief executive of the Migraine Trust, welcomed the new trials but stressed that more research into migraines would be needed before patients could access the treatment.

"We look forward to hearing the results of further sTMS trials in the future.

"Migraine and headache are the least publicly funded of all neurological conditions in the UK, particularly relative to their economic impact," she said.

Print Sponsor

Why light can worsen migraines
11 Jan 10 |  Health
'Aura' migraines a stroke risk
28 Oct 09 |  Health
Migraine 'favoured sickie excuse'
07 Jul 09 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific