Invasive occipital nerve stimulation for refractory chronic cluster headache: what evolution at long-term? Strengths and weaknesses of the method

  • Magis D
  • Gérard P
  • Schoenen J
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BACKGROUND: Invasive Occipital Nerve Stimulation (iONS) is a costly technique which appears effective in drug-refractory chronic cluster headache (drCCH) management. Available data on long-term effectiveness and safety of iONS in this indication are scarce, though they could be useful to neurologists and patients in daily practice. The purpose of this short report is to discuss the very long-term outcome of a drCCH cohort, including adverse events.

FINDINGS: Previously, favourable results were obtained with iONS in 15 drCCH patients: 80 % were significantly improved and 60 % were pain free. We report here the very long-term follow-up (up to nine years) of 10 patients belonging to this cohort. Meanwhile 5 patients had to be definitively explanted because of device infection (3) or paresthesia intolerance (2). Four patients (40 %) evolved to an episodic form of CH. Six remained chronic but their attack frequency was decreased by 70 % on average. Intake of preventive drugs is still necessary in 80 % of patients. All patients needed at least one battery replacement.

CONCLUSIONS: Up to nine years after implantation, iONS is still effective in most patients with drCCH. Concomitant preventive drugs remain often necessary. Forty percent of patients reverse to episodic CH, possibly by natural history. iONS is not a benign procedure but device-related complications appear similar to those reported with other invasive neurostimulators.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Adverse events
  • Cluster headache
  • Neurostimulation
  • Occipital nerve
  • Refractory

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  • Delphine Magis

  • Pascale Gérard

  • Jean Schoenen

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