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A remote-controlled device to stop severe headache pain

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Most sufferers of brutal migraine and cluster headaches are all too familiar with the warning signs of an approaching attack, but a California biotech company says it has created a device that can potentially stop the crippling pain as easily as flicking a switch.

Developed by Autonomic Technologies Inc., the therapy has successfully completed a trial of its technology on European patients with cluster headaches, also known as “suicide” headaches, the Redwood City, Calif., company said Tuesday.

The same device is being trialed for use on migraine headache patients in Europe, and the company plans to offer it for patients suffering from cluster and migraine headaches in the United States, too.

During trials of the device in Europe, 67 percent of cluster headache patients were relieved of pain within 15 minutes – a far cry from hours or days some people suffer from cluster headaches, which are more severe than migraine headaches.

“It’s amazing,” said Dr. Frank Papay, a facial doctor at the Cleveland Clinic who developed the surgical technique to implant the device. Changes in most patients were remarkable, he said.

“We could see almost immediately visual changes in the patients,” Papay said. “We could just see them relax.”

The device’s electrical stimulation technology evolved out of the Cleveland Clinic’s research in deep-brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease. It’s part of the wave of new therapies using electric impulses to treat certain conditions. The Cleveland Clinic has recognized technology as one of the top innovations for 2013.

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