Neurostimulation in cluster headache: A review of current progress

Pederson, et al. Cephalalgia. 2013 Oct;33(14):1179-93

Purpose of Review:

Neurostimulation has emerged as a viable treatment for intractable chronic cluster headache. Several therapeutic strategies are being investigated including stimulation of the hypothalamus, occipital nerves and sphenopalatine ganglion. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of the rationale, methods and progress for each of these.

Latest Findings:

Results from a randomized, controlled trial investigating sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation have just been published. Reportedly the surgery is relatively simple and it is apparently the only therapy that provides relief acutely.


The rationale behind these therapies is based on growing evidence from clinical, hormonal and neuroimaging studies. The overall results are encouraging, but unfortunately not all patients have benefited. All the mentioned therapies require weeks to months of stimulation for a prophylactic effect to occur, suggesting brain plasticity as a possible mechanism, and only stimulation of the sphenopalatine ganglion has demonstrated an acute, abortive effect. Predictors of effect for all modes of neurostimulation still need to be identified and in the future, the least invasive and most effective strategy must be preferred as first-line therapy for intractable chronic cluster headache.

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