Efficacy of cabergoline and triptans for cluster-like headache caused by prolactin-secreting pituitary adenoma: A literature review and case report

Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2020 Sep:196:106005. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2020.106005. Epub 2020 Jun 13.


Objective: Cluster-like headache (CLH) associated with pituitary adenoma (PA) is rare. Although numerous cases have been reported, no summary of the literature has been published. Furthermore, the mechanism and efficacy of medication in CLH associated with PA remains unknown.

Methods: We reviewed 14 cases of CLHs associated with PA published in the English and Japanese literature. We have also included and presented our experience with such a case.

Results: The median age of patients with CLHs associated with PA was 46 years (range, 17-58 years). The ratio of men to women was 14:1. Headache duration ranged from 15-480 min, with left fronto-orbital pain being common. The most common autonomic nervous symptoms were eye-related in 13 patients (86.6 %), followed by nasal symptoms in 12 (80.0 %). Thirteen patients (86.6 %) had functional adenomas; the remaining two were nonfunctional. Twelve of the functional adenomas were lactotroph adenomas (80.0 %), and one was a somatotroph adenoma (6.6 %). CLHs significantly improved after cabergoline administration in 7/9 patients with a lactotroph adenoma (77.7 % response rate). In 5/11 patients with either a functional or nonfunctional PA who received a triptan, CLHs improved (45.4 % response rate).

Conclusion: Based on the efficacies of cabergoline and triptans, two different mechanisms may coexist in the pathogenesis of CLHs associated with PA: endocrinological and physical effects of the tumor itself. Cabergoline is the first-line treatment for headaches caused by lactotroph adenomas. Triptans can be effective as an acute drug for headaches associated with nonfunctional PAs and persistent headaches that remain after cabergoline administration.

Keywords: Cabergoline; Cluster headache; Efficacy of medication; Prolactinoma; Triptan.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cabergoline / therapeutic use*
  • Headache / drug therapy*
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / complications*
  • Prolactinoma / complications*
  • Tryptamines / therapeutic use*


  • Tryptamines
  • Cabergoline