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Deep brain stimulation for intractable chronic cluster headache: proposals for patient selection


Massimo Leone, Headache Centre and Cerebrovascular Disease Department, Istituto Nazionale Neurologico Carlo Besta, via Celoria 11, 20133 Milano, Italy. Tel. +39 02 706 38067, fax +39 02 706 38067, e-mail leone@istituto-besta.


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Cluster headache is the most severe of the primary headaches. Positron emission tomography and functional MRI studies have shown that the ipsilateral posterior hypothalamus is activated during cluster headache attacks and is structurally asymmetric in these patients. These changes are highly specific for the condition and suggest that the cluster headache generator may be located in that brain area; they further suggest that electrical stimulation of that region might produce clinical improvement in chronic cluster headache sufferers refractory to medical therapy. In five patients with severe intractable chronic cluster headache, hypothalamic electrical stimulation produced complete and long-term pain relief with no relevant side-effects. We therefore consider it essential to propose criteria for selecting chronic cluster headache patients for hypothalamic deep brain stimulation before this procedure is undertaken at other academic medical centres.

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