Sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation in cluster headache and other types of headache

Lainez, et al. Cephalalgia. 2016 May 05


The cluster headache is the most excruciatingly painful primary headache. In some patients, neither preventive treatment nor acute treatment is effective or treatment is poorly tolerated. The sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) has an important role in the pathophysiology of cluster headache and, for this reason, SPG stimulation has been used to treat cluster headache.


We have reviewed the published literature on the role of the SPG in cluster headache and the use of different treatments targeting the SPG.


Multiple procedures have been used over the SPG to treat pain and trigemino-autonomic symptoms in patients with refractory cluster headache. After obtaining good results in a small number of patients, a miniaturized stimulator was developed. Stimulation of the SPG with this device proved to be efficacious in acute and preventive treatment in a clinical trial involving patients with chronic refractory cluster headache. Implantation of the device is minimally invasive and the most frequent side-effects are mild, such as paraesthesia and pain over the maxillary area. In patients who have used the SPG device for longer than one year, the therapeutic effect remains effective and the side-effects decrease.


The reported studies have demonstrated that SPG stimulation is a safe and effective treatment for chronic cluster headache. Long-term studies have shown that the effect remains over time and this treatment could be a good choice in patients with chronic refractory headache. We need more data about its potential use in other forms of headache, such as other trigemino-autonomic headaches or migraine.

View Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27152017