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Thursday 27th October 2016

New hope for cluster headaches

21st March 2007

Clinical trials of a new treatment for the intensely painful cluster headache in Belgium and the UK have shown promising results.


The treatment, known as occipital nerve stimulation, involves an electrode at the base of the skull, connected to a pacemaker-like device elsewhere in the body. An external generator controls the degree of stimulation the patients receive.

Two out of six of the UK participants reported a 90-95% improvement in their headaches after receiving the treatment, while four others reported more moderate improvements, according to the study at the UK Institute of Neurology.

In a similar trial run by Belgium's Liege University, two out of eight patients said they were pain-free up to 22 months after treatment, with three others reporting 90% reductions in pain.

The studies are published in the March 8 online editions of the journals The Lancet and The Lancet Neurology.

The pain associated with cluster headaches is considered to be among the worst that a human can experience, and those for whom available drugs don't work have been driven to suicide. Around one in 1,000 people are thought to be affected, men more often than women.

Sufferers often report relentless, intense burning or stabbing pain located behind one eye, generally lasting from 30 minutes to 90 minutes and recurring several times a day.

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