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Allegheny Health Network's New Headache Center Offers Latest Treatments for Chronic Headache Sufferers

Monday, March 4, 2019

PITTSBURGH – For most, the occasional headache can easily be managed with over-the-counter medications or even simple home remedies. But for the millions of Americans afflicted by frequent, severe headaches, their lives can be significantly impacted as they suffer with debilitating pain.

At the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Headache Center, located at AHN’s West Penn Hospital, director and certified headache specialist Dolores Santamaria, MD, provides patients a range of treatment options to help them manage their headache pain and regain quality of life. 

Migraine is the most common type of primary headache, said to affect nearly 40 million people in the U.S., and is characterized by severe pain on one or both sides of the head, upset stomach, visual disturbances and more. It is considered the number one cause of disability in individuals under the age of 50 according to a recent study.

“Aside from the physical effects, patients can also experience significant anxiety, depression and stress as a result of this often devastating neurological disease,” said Dr. Santamaria. “Many of these patients have historically been undertreated, so it is our goal to be a compassionate center of care where they can find true relief from their pain.”

Under the direction of Dr. Santamaria, the center provides access to various medications intended to relieve headache pain symptoms, abort a developing headache or prevent a headache from occurring as frequently or as severely. Previously, she says, the pharmacological management of migraine was limited to the use of drugs that were designed to treat conditions other than migraine. However just this year, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved three new drugs to prevent migraine headaches in adults including Galcanezumab-gnlm (Emgality), erenumab (Aimovig) and fremanezumab-vfrm (Ajovy).

“This is the first time ever that we have migraine-specific treatments. With these latest advancements and others to come, it’s a very promising time for migraine sufferers.”

To abort chronic migraine cycles or cluster headaches, which are more severe than migraine and even referred to as the “suicide headache,” patients may undergo infusion therapy at the onsite, state-of-the-art infusion suite. Medication is administered intravenously on an outpatient basis, including an infusion in the morning and in the afternoon every day for up to four days.

For less-severe headache types, Dr. Santamaria and her staff, including neurologist Andrea Synowiec, DO, may recommend lifestyle and diet changes, or enlist injectable treatment modalities such as Botox® and nerve blocks.

Before joining AHN in 2017, Dr. Santamaria directed the Neurology Clinic at Logan Regional Medical Center in Logan County, WV. Prior to that, she completed a fellowship in headache medicine at Thomas Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia under the mentorship of Stephen Silberstein, MD.

“Dr. Santamaria’s distinguished expertise in the treatment of headache, combined with her endless commitment to her patients, makes the AHN Headache Center a unique place of care in our region,” said James Valeriano, MD, Chair, AHN Department of Neurology. “We are delighted to have Dr. Santamaria at AHN, and thrilled for the numerous patients who have already realized long sought-after relief under her care.”

To schedule an appointment, call 1-855-246-4848.

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