Botox for kids with chronic migraines

A new report by doctors at UC Irvine describes successful treatment of 9 children aged 8 to 17 with migraine headaches using Botox injections. It may sound surprising, but unfortunately children also suffer from chronic migraines. Chronic migraine is defined as headaches that occur on 15 or more days each month and on at least 8 of those days headaches have migraine features. In children with episodic and chronic migraines, migraine features, such as throbbing, unilateral location, sensitivity to light and noise are less common than in adults.

There are only 5 treatments that are approved by the FDA for the prevention of migraine attacks. Four are drugs – 2 blood pressure medications, propranolol (Inderal) and timolol (Blocadren) and 2 epilepsy drugs, topiramate (Topamax) and divalproex sodium (Depakote). The fifth treatment is Botox injections. While Botox is not approved for kids with migraines, it is approved to treat eye conditions in children 12 years of age and older. Botox is also widely used to treat younger children with cerebral palsy (CP), although there is no official FDA clearance for such use. For a child with CP, Botox injections can make a difference between being wheelchair-bound and walking unassisted. However, very young children with CP are at the highest risk of serious complications and even death because they have small bodies and very stiff muscles, which require relatively large doses of Botox.

The dose to treat migraines is much smaller and therefore a lot safer. My youngest child with chronic migraines was a boy of 8 who weighed 50 lbs. He had excellent relief of his migraines after receiving 15 units of Botox into his forehead. He underwent a total of five treatments over a period of two years and for the last treatment, I gave him 50 units (forehead and temples). By then his weight was 65 lbs. The standard adult dose for migraines is 155 units. The dose for cerebral palsy in an adult goes up to 400 units.

The main difficulty in using Botox in children with migraines is that insurance companies often deny coverage, which they justify by the lack of FDA approval. However, Botox injections at low doses used to treat migraines in children are safer than drugs for epilepsy, high blood pressure, or depression.

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