Background: Evidence supports the use of non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS; gammaCore®) as a promising therapeutic option for patients with cluster headache (CH). We conducted this audit of real-world data from patients with CH, the majority of whom were treatment refractory, to explore early UK clinical experience with nVNS used acutely, preventively, or both.
Methods: We retrospectively analysed data from 30 patients with CH (29 chronic, 1 episodic) who submitted individual funding requests for nVNS to the National Health Service. All patients had responded to adjunctive nVNS therapy during an evaluation period (typical duration, 3-6 months). Data collected from patient interviews, treatment diaries, and physician notes were summarised with descriptive statistics. Paired t tests were used to examine statistical significance.
Results: The mean (SD) CH attack frequency decreased from 26.6 (17.1) attacks/wk. before initiation of nVNS therapy to 9.5 (11.0) attacks/wk. (P < 0.01) afterward. Mean (SD) attack duration decreased from 51.9 (36.7) minutes to 29.4 (28.5) minutes (P < 0.01), and mean (SD) attack severity (rated on a 10-point scale) decreased from 7.8 (2.3) to 6.0 (2.6) (P < 0.01). Use of abortive treatments also decreased. Favourable changes in the use of preventive medication were also observed. No serious device-related adverse events were reported.
Conclusions: Significant decreases in attack frequency, severity, and duration were observed in these patients with CH who did not respond to or were intolerant of multiple preventive and/or acute treatments. These real-world findings complement evidence from clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy and safety of nVNS in CH.
Keywords: Acute treatment; Chronic cluster headache; Neuromodulation; Non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation; Preventive therapy; Real-world data; Refractory.