Magnetic Device Could Zap Migraines

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tms migraine
CBS

A strange-looking device may be able to stop a migraine in its tracks. That could be good news for the estimated 30 million Americans who suffer from the condition.

It's called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation - or TMS. The patient puts a device on the back of the head, and pushes a button, sending a magnetic pulse into the skull, CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports.

"It actually generates a very small amount of current that flows through the brain and the assumption is that current is what turns off the migraine attack," said Dr. Richard Lipton of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

About 25 percent of migraine headaches are preceded by what's called an aura, including visual changes like flashing lights, zigzag patterns and blind spots. The idea is to use the device at the first sign of an aura.

"People can treat a headache when they feel it coming on," Lipton said.

In results released today by Lipton, a shareholder in the company that makes a device, TMS treatment stopped migraines in 40 percent of patients - twice as effective as placebo.

"There are a lot of patients who can't take the prescription drugs that are available for migraine, and this gives me a whole new avenue of therapy," Lipton said.

There are medications currently available that have been extremely effective at stopping migraines, but they do have side effects. So if the FDA approves this device, it could be a welcome alternative.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook