Botox injections are approved to reduce the frequency of migraine headaches, but studies of their effectiveness have had mixed results. Now a review of studies has concluded that Botox has small but significant benefits, with few serious side effects.
Researchers analyzed data from 17 studies, including 3,646 patients, that tested botulinum toxin injections against placebos. More than 86 percent of the patients were women, and 43 percent had chronic migraines, with more than 15 headache days a month. The analysis is in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Treatment usually consists of 15 to 20 shots around the head and neck given once every three or four months. The pooled data showed that in comparison to a placebo, Botox injections resulted in an average 1.6 fewer attacks per month for chronic sufferers — those with more than 15 headaches a month.
Botox did have more side effects than a placebo, including a greater incidence of muscle weakness, double vision, drooping eyelids, neck pain and muscle tightness, though no severe side effects were reported.
There are various drugs for the prophylactic treatment of chronic migraine, but the study’s lead author, Dr. Eva Bruloy, a plastic surgeon at the University Hospital of Amiens-Picardie in France, said they have more, and more severe, side effects than Botox.
“For chronic migraine,” she said, “Botox is a better prophylactic than the drugs.”