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Botox may offer new hope for young migraine sufferers

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(HealthDay News) -- Botox injections may help bring relief to children suffering from migraines, a small study suggests.

Botox (botulinum toxin) appears to reduce the frequency of migraines and shorten the length of episodes when they do occur, while also diminishing migraine pain.

At the moment, Botox is only approved as an adult migraine treatment. And the new findings are based on testing among just nine children, aged 8 to 17.

But the results raise hope that a new alternative therapy for pediatric migraines is on the horizon, given that only a single preventive migraine medication -- topiramate -- is currently approved for the treatment of adolescent patients.

"When children and teens have migraine pain, it can severely affect their lives and ability to function," said study author Dr. Shalini Shah, chief of the division of pain medicine at the University of California, Irvine,

"They miss school, their grades suffer and they are left behind, often unable to reach their full potential," she added explained in an American Society of Anesthesiologists' news release. "Clearly, there is a need for an alternative treatment for those who haven't found relief.

Shah said that after treatment with Botox, "we saw improvement in functional aspects in all of the children and teens. In fact, one patient was hospitalized monthly for her migraine pain prior to Botox treatment and was expected to be held back in school. After treatment, she only has one or two migraines a year, and is excelling in college."

The study team said that prior to Botox injections, the participating patients experienced migraines between roughly eight and 30 times per month.

The kids and teens were given Botox shots to the front and back of the head and the neck every 12 weeks for five years. Once treated, the study volunteers had migraines between two and 10 times a month.

Migraine duration also fell from between a half hour and a full day, to 15 minutes to seven hours. Reported pain also fell significantly, the researchers said.

Though no severe side effects were reported, another study is already being launched.

Shah presented the findings this week at a meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in Boston. Findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary if they haven't been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

There's more on migraines U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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