New neurostimulation options for cluster headache
Cluster headache is less frequent than migraine… but it is as frequent as multiple sclerosis and terribly excruciating. Treatments for cluster headache include triptans, inhaled oxygen for attacks and verapamil, occipital blocks, steroids and lithium for prevention.
We need more options. The ATI company has designed a little electrode that can be placed by a surgeon near your sphenopalatine ganglion. WHAT is this ganglion exactly? It is a little node full of neurons that regulates things like tears and nasal secretions. It is also packed with sensory fibers. Stimulating this little structure with an electrical current can abort a cluster headache attack. The electrode can be activated by a remote control that the patient holds near its cheek. No injection, no nasal spray, no pill. You zap your attack with an electrical current. After all the brain is an electrical/chemical organ. Efficacy is not 100%. It requires an invasive surgery, specialized teams, and close follow-up. It will most likely be reserved to refractory patients, but it is a promising option. Even more good news, it seems that in some patients, the regular use of stimulation can diminish the frequency of attacks. But let’s be patient: the device is not yet approved for use in Canada.