Management of Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias Including Chronic Cluster: A Review

JAMA Neurol. 2023 Mar 1;80(3):308-319. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.4804.


Importance: Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs) comprise a unique collection of primary headache disorders characterized by moderate or severe unilateral pain, localized in in the area of distribution of the first branch of the trigeminal nerve, accompanied by cranial autonomic symptoms and signs. Most TACs are rare diseases, which hampers the possibility of performing randomized clinical trials and large studies. Therefore, knowledge of treatment efficacy must be based only on observational studies, rare disease registries, and case reports, where real-world data and evidence play an important role in health care decisions.

Observations: Chronic cluster headache is the most common of these disorders, and the literature offers some evidence from randomized clinical trials to support the use of pharmacologic and neurostimulation treatments. Galcanezumab, a monoclonal antibody targeting the calcitonin gene-related peptide, was not effective at 3 months in a randomized clinical trial but showed efficacy at 12 months in a large case series. For the other TACs (ie, paroxysmal hemicrania, hemicrania continua, short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing, and short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with cranial autonomic symptoms), only case reports and case series are available to guide physicians in everyday management.

Conclusions and relevance: The accumulation of epidemiologic, pathophysiologic, natural history knowledge, and data from case series and small controlled trials, especially over the past 20 years from investigators around the world, has added to the previously limited evidence and has helped advance and inform the treatment approach to rare TACs, which can be extremely challenging for clinicians.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Headache* / diagnosis
  • Cluster Headache* / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Headache / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Paroxysmal Hemicrania* / diagnosis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias* / diagnosis
  • Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias* / therapy