New Cluster Headache Treatment Strikes a Good Nerve

2013-12-13 07:12

Cluster headache is one of the most challenging conditions to treat. A new treatment that involves noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation may offer renewed hope for all those who suffer with this head pain.

What’s different about the new treatment?

If you are familiar with cluster headache, you may already know about a treatment option called vagus nerve stimulation. This approach, which has been available for more than two decades, involves implanting a device that stimulates the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve runs from the head through the neck down to the abdomen on body sides of the body. To treat cluster headache, a pulse generator is implanted under the skin of the chest and an electrical wire is attached to the vagus nerve.

The battery-powered generator sends electrical signals to the vagus nerve. They in turn are transmitted to the brain to turn off the pain. Although vagus nerve stimulation is successful in some cases of cluster headache, it is an expensive and invasive procedure and therefore not considered a first line of treatment.

The new treatment approach, which is being studied in clinical trials, involves non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation using a handheld device called gammaCore, developed by electroCore. Information about gammaCore was presented at the recent American Headache Society Annual Scottsdale Headache Symposium and the North American Neuromodulation Society meeting.

Clinical trials for cluster headache
Among the four clinical trials underway for cluster headache is “A randomized, multicenter double-blind, parallel, sham-controlled study of GammaCore a non-invasive neurostimulator device for the acute relief of episodic and chronic cluster headache.” The study began recruiting in August 2013, and it is scheduled to be completed by March 2014. The study locations are in Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.


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I need help with treatments please. I need to educate my doctor too. Wits end....
Hi Phil: I am not a healthcare professional, so here are my suggestions. You don't mention which treatments you have tried or discussed with your doctor, so you might make a list of all the possible treatment options (you can do your research on the Internet) and then make an appointment to discuss the possibilities with your physician and ask specifically which ones are viable options for you. Learn as much as you can about each treatment before you talk to your doctor and bring notes with you. Also, visit forums and discussion groups where others talk about their experiences with treatments. Although everyone is different and treatment results vary, it is helpful psychologically to share with others and you can learn much about what to expect from certain treatment approaches. Good luck and don't give up.