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Surgery for Headaches

Many people achieve lasting headache relief with nonsurgical therapies, like medications. But if you need surgery, we are among the few places in Michigan offering the highest level of care.

Henry Ford Health offers a full range of headache therapies, including surgery for stubborn pain. Our neurosurgeons have a longstanding reputation for successfully delivering advanced care. And our experience regularly performing headache surgery gives you the best chances for excellent results.

Conditions we treat using headache surgery

Types of headache that may require surgery include:

  • Migraines: An inherited neurological condition causing sensitivity to changes in weather, sleep and more. Get more information about migraine.
  • Glossopharyngeal neuralgia: Extremely rare condition that typically causes severe pain that comes and goes. Swallowing often triggers these symptoms.
  • Hemifacial spasm: A rare disease that causes involuntary muscle movements on one side of the face.
  • Occipital headaches: Pain near the skull base that’s typically due to occipital neuralgia or Chiari malformation.
  • Pseudotumor cerebri (also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension or IIH): This condition causes headaches, abnormally high brain pressure and vision problems.

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Surgery for headaches at Henry Ford: Why choose us?

You receive care from highly skilled neurosurgeons with decades of experience. We stay current on the latest headache surgery research, so you can count on us for safe, precise care. These are some of the reasons patients from across Michigan and surrounding communities put their trust in us. Meet our neurosurgeons.

Highlights of our headache surgery offerings include:

  • Team approach: You benefit from the recommendations of Henry Ford’s renowned headache experts. Patients turn to us for relief from rare and complex forms of headache. Neurologists, neurosurgeons and other specialists work together to tailor therapies that give you the best chances of healing.
  • Appropriate care: Treatments start with a detailed evaluation to accurately diagnose the problem. Multiple specialists, including headache neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists and others, work together to coordinate services for complex cases. If you need surgery, we are equally meticulous in determining the right procedure for you.
  • Expertise in rare conditions: Henry Ford neurosurgeons are nationally recognized for successfully treating rare sources of headache pain, including pseudotumor cerebri. This expertise translates to exceptional care, including surgery only if you are likely to benefit.
  • Support: It’s natural to be nervous about seeing a neurosurgeon. We take extra steps to make surgical evaluations less worrisome. Neurosurgeons make a point of getting to know you as an individual, enabling us to tailor recommendations to your needs. If you need headache surgery, we explain how it can help and answer all of your questions.

Types of headache surgery we offer

Surgery for headaches may include:

Occipital nerve decompression

Migraine and cluster headache pain sometimes stems from problems with the occipital nerve in the back of the head. Nerve decompression procedures relieve pressure on nerve fibers due to injury or inflammation.


Nerve stimulation is another option for relieving difficult-to-treat migraine and cluster headache pain. This option uses an implantable device (neurostimulator) that sends gentle electronic pulses to the brain. The pulses disrupt your ability to receive pain signals.

Posterior fossa decompression for Chiari malformation

Neurosurgeons reduce pressure on your brain and spinal cord by removing a small section of the back of the skull. They also may create more space for the brain by expanding its protective covering using a patch of tissue.

Pseudotumor cerebri

If other nonsurgical therapies fail to bring relief, or surgery may affect your vision, you may be eligible for other procedures. We offer decompressions, shunting procedures and stenting of venous sinuses. Neurosurgeons work with our neuro-ophthalmology team to provide sophisticated optic nerve fenestration. This is another technique for relieving nerve pressure.

Sphenopalatine ganglionectomy

Neurosurgeons disconnect the nerves that transmit pain signals from the spinal cord. This option is for cluster headaches due to issues with the sphenopalatine ganglion, a bundle of nerves deep in the face behind your nose.

Other surgical services we offer

Henry Ford neurosurgeons also treat facial pain due to trigeminal neuralgia and other conditions. We are among the few programs in south central Michigan offering this type of care. Experts successfully navigate delicate tissue to quiet severe pain. Find out more about trigeminal neuralgia surgery and other facial pain procedures.

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