Surgery solves mystery headaches

June 14, 2010 9:45:11 AM PDT
It causes headaches that last for days, weeks even months. Victims can become debilitated -- and get this -- diagnosis can take months, even years. But one doctor is wiping out symptoms with a single surgery.

"I lay in bed all day long. I'm always tired. I'm always in pain," Danielle Foster told Ivanhoe.

"Basically, I have a migraine for four months," Karen Wetherby said.

"It's like you're in a fog. It's like you can't even think," Carolyn Conley explained.

Three women who are all suffering with the same problem.

"I was basically at the point like find something or shoot me," Wetherby recalled.

Wetherby suffered for seven years from Chiari Malformation. It's a defect in the base of the skull.

"A lot of times, they're told it's in their heads," Michael Seiff, M.D., neurosurgeon, at Sunrise Hospital, in Las Vegas, told Ivanhoe.

It happens when there's not enough space in the skull for the cerebellum and brain stem. The overcrowding creates too much pressure. Dr. Seiff relieves the problem in a single surgery.

Foster, a mother of two, is hours away from what she hopes is a new life.

"I've got an 8-year-old that's never had a real mom," Foster explained.

Cameras were in the OR when Dr. Seiff drilled into Foster's head. He removed bone at the base of the skull -- creating more space. The same surgery helped Wetherby and Conley, too. Headaches and numbness are gone. Fatigue and joint pain are disappearing.

A new person -- a new mother -- the one Foster always wanted to be.

There is a risk of infection, which is a concern in any brain surgery. Dr. Seiff says he's had very few complications, and most of his patients experience some relief with the surgery.

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