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Keywords:

  • Migraine;
  • cluster headache;
  • vagus nerve stimulation;
  • epilepsy

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Anticonvulsant and antidepressant medications have demonstrated efficacy in migraine treatment. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is an effective treatment for drug-refractory epilepsy and possibly depression and it also has documented analgesic effects. These observations suggested a possible role for VNS in treating severe refractory headaches, and led to a trial of VNS in patients with such headaches. VNS was implanted in four men and two women with disabling chronic cluster and migraine headaches. In one man and one woman with chronic migraines VNS produced dramatic improvement with restoration of ability to work. Two patients with chronic cluster headaches had significant improvement of their headaches. VNS was well tolerated in five patients, while one developed nausea even at the lowest current strength. In conclusion, VNS may be an effective therapy for intractable chronic migraine and cluster headaches and deserves further trials.