Occipital Neurectomy

What Is Occipital Neuralgia?

Occipital neuralgia affects the occipital nerve that runs in the top of the spine up the scalp to the back of your head and ears. When the nerve is irritated, injured, or inflamed, it can cause pain at the base of the skull or back of your neck.

Sometimes, this condition is confused with migraines and other headaches due to similar symptoms. The treatments for headache pain depend on the underlying condition. Therefore, an accurate diagnosis is crucial to understanding whether occipital neurectomy would work for you.

What Is an Occipital Neurectomy?

If you get debilitating headaches at the back of your head above the neck, you may have occipital neuralgia. This condition is typically treated through medication and noninvasive techniques. If these methods do not provide relief, Dr. Lewis may recommend an occipital neurectomy.
An occipital neurectomy is a surgical solution to occipital neuralgia if other methods of treatment do not provide relief.

Symptoms Treated by Occipital Neurectomy

Occipital neuralgia causes sharp, jabbing pain at the back of the neck or head.
If you have occipital neuralgia, your symptoms may include the following:

  • Pain on one side of the head
  • Pain on both sides of the head
  • Stabbing or throbbing pain at the base of the head and up through the scalp
  • Light sensitivity
  • Pain behind the eye
  • Tender scalp
  • Pain during neck movement

Occipital Neurectomy Procedure

During occipital neurectomy surgery, the occipital nerve may be cut or removed. While this treatment can provide effective relief from occipital neuralgia in many cases, it may also result in a feeling of numbness in the skull.

During the procedure, also called occipital avulsion, Dr. Lewis uses Transcranial Doppler Sonography to pinpoint the occipital artery, which is close to the occipital nerve. Then, he removes the targeted section of the nerve. This procedure may bring long-lasting relief from severe headaches.
There are three sets of occipital nerves, so locating the one causing your headaches may take some time. You should carefully explain exactly where the pain occurs, to help Dr. Lewis diagnose your condition accurately.

Risks associated with Occipital Neurectomy

After the surgery, many patients report a reduction in the duration and intensity of occipital neuralgia symptoms.
However, some patients may experience complications that include the following:

  • Pain recurrence
  • Scalp hypersensitivity
  • Odd sensations or no sensation in the affected area
  • Neuroma (tumor) on the nerve sheath

Other Treatments for Occipital Neuralgia

Dr. Lewis may recommend other options prior to recommending an occipital neurectomy. However, if the severe pain does not abate after other treatments, you may need to have surgery to obtain long-lasting relief.

Other surgical solutions for occipital neuralgia include occipital nerve stimulation: This procedure involves a neurostimulator that blocks pain signals sent to the brain.

Fortunately, occipital neuralgia does not pose a life-threatening condition. You may be able to obtain relief from taking medicine and resting.

Contact the Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic to learn more about occipital neurectomy surgery. Call us at (601) 366-1011 today to schedule a consultation. We’ll find a solution that works for you.