Objective: To determine, in a nonblinded trial, if the Neuro-Wrap system is effective in reducing the severity of pain in patients with severe post-electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) headaches not adequately responsive to routine analgesic treatment.
Background: A very troubling side effect of ECT is severe post-ECT headaches. Although these headaches usually respond to routine analgesic medication, some patients continue to experience severe headache despite treatment. This very unpleasant sensation, repeated with each ECT, may cause patients to prematurely stop ECT and experience a relapse in their psychiatric symptoms. "Cold therapy" has been used for a long time as an adjunct to treat headache and pain. The Neuro-Wrap system is a method to provide temperature-controlled cooling to the head without the need to frequently reapply ice packs or physically hold the ice packs in position. It has been used successfully for patients with migraine headaches. This is the first report of its use with patients experiencing severe post-ECT headaches.
Methods: The study comprised a total of 14 patients receiving ECT who experienced a severe headache for 2 successive ECT treatments or 2 of their last 4 treatments and who had only partial or no response to usual analgesic treatment for their headache. After completion of the ECT, the Neuro-Wrap was placed on the head of the patient for a maximum of 40 minutes. Patients continued to receive analgesic medication as needed for relief of headache pain. Patients were their own control group.
Results: A total of 85 Neuro-Wrap treatments were given to 14 patients ranging in age from 23 to 71 years old. Nine patients reported clearly positive results on 67 different occasions. Three reported mild alleviation of headaches on 15 occasions. The remaining 2 patients had a total of 3 treatments with no benefit. After the initial treatment, 12 of 14 patients wanted to use the machine after all their subsequent ECT sessions.
Conclusions: Cold therapy with Neuro-Wrap is an effective alternative treatment for refractory headaches caused by ECT.