Magazine article Medical Economics

Michigan Head Pain & Neurological Institute

Magazine article Medical Economics

Michigan Head Pain & Neurological Institute

Article excerpt

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN

Joel Saper, MD, took a risk 31 years ago on behalf of headache sufferers, and it's paid off. Today, the Michigan Head Pain & Neurological Institute (MHNI), the first inpatient and outpatient facility in the U.S. for patients with headache, is still considered one of the best.

It took a pioneering spirit to treat headaches so seriously at a time when many physicians felt they were psychologically based.

"As science began to [identify] the neurotransmitter disturbances that were present in certain parts of the brain, it was very clear that headache was one of those neurotransmitter conditions that was going to eventually be called a brain disorder and not a blood vessel disorder and not a psychological disorder," explains Saper, the center's founder and director.

Today, 80 percent of MHNI patients report a 50 to 100 percent improvement in their headaches, including 78 percent who note improvement in functioning, 65 percent who cite improvement in depression, 80 percent with improved ability to go to work, and 80 percent requiring fewer emergency room visits.

Saper also realized early on that the more painkillers a patient took, the worse the headache became. "We now have compelling evidence that shows that the very parts of the brain that produce headache are aggravated by the use of narcotics," he says.

Saper's philosophy of care is one reason for the institute's success today.

"What we do, both inpatient and outpatient, is spend a lot of physician and nonphysician professional time with them: gathering data, trying different treatments, listening to what they tell us," says Saper. …

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