Sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation for cluster headache, results from a large, open-label European registry

J Headache Pain. 2018 Jan 18;19(1):6. doi: 10.1186/s10194-017-0828-9.


Background: Cluster headache (CH) is a disabling primary headache disorder characterized by severe periorbital pain. A subset of patients does not respond to established pharmacological therapy. This study examines outcomes of a cohort of mainly chronic CH patients treated with sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) stimulation.

Methods: Patients were followed in an open-label prospective study for 12 months. Ninety-seven CH patients (88 chronic, 9 episodic) underwent trans-oral insertion of a microstimulator targeting the SPG. Patients recorded stimulation effect prospectively for individual attacks. Frequency, use of preventive and acute medications, headache impact (HIT-6) and quality of life measures (SF-36v2) were monitored at clinic visits. Per protocol, frequency responders experienced ≥ 50% reduction in attack frequency and acute responders treated ≥ 50% of attacks. HIT-6 responders experienced an improvement ≥ 2.3 units and SF-36 responders ≥ 4 units vs. baseline.

Results: Eighty-five patients (78 chronic, 7 episodic) remained implanted and were evaluated for effectiveness at 12 months. In total, 68% of all patients were responders, 55% of chronic patients were frequency responders and 32% of all patients were acute responders. 67% of patients using acute treatments were able to reduce the use of these by 52% and 74% of chronic patients were able to stop, reduce or remain off all preventive medications. 59% of all patients were HIT-6 responders, 67% were SF-36 responders.

Conclusions: This open-label registry corroborates that SPG stimulation is an effective therapy for CH patients providing therapeutic benefits and improvements in use of medication as well as headache impact and quality of life.

Keywords: Cluster headache; Long term effectiveness; Neuromodulation; Neurostimulation; Sphenopalatine ganglion.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cluster Headache / therapy*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / instrumentation
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Parasympathetic*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries*
  • Young Adult