Treatment of medically intractable cluster headache by occipital nerve stimulation: long-term follow-up of eight patients.
BACKGROUND: Cluster headache is a form of primary headache that features repeated attacks of excruciatingly severe headache usually occurring several times a day. Patients with chronic cluster headache have unremitting illness that necessitates daily preventive medical treatment for years. When medically intractable, the condition has previously been treatable only with cranially invasive or neurally destructive methods. METHODS: Eight patients with medically intractable chronic cluster headache were implanted in the suboccipital region with electrodes for occipital nerve stimulation. Other than the first patient, who was initially stimulated unilaterally before being stimulated bilaterally, all patients were stimulated bilaterally during treatment. FINDINGS: At a median follow-up of 20 months (range 6-27 months for bilateral stimulation), six of eight patients reported responses that were sufficiently meaningful for them to recommend the treatment to similarly affected patients with chronic cluster headache. Two patients noticed a substantial improvement (90% and 95%) in their attacks; three patients noticed a moderate improvement (40%, 60%, and 20-80%) and one reported mild improvement (25%). Improvements occurred in both frequency and severity of attacks. These changes took place over weeks or months, although attacks returned in days when the device malfunctioned (eg, with battery depletion). Adverse events of concern were lead migrations in one patient and battery depletion requiring replacement in four. INTERPRETATION: Occipital nerve stimulation in cluster headache seems to offer a safe, effective treatment option that could begin a new era of neurostimulation therapy for primary headache syndromes.
Burns, B; Watkins, L; Goadsby, PJ
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