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Deep Brain Stimulation Aids Those With Rare Headache Condition

THURSDAY April 17, 2008 -- Patients with severe headache attacks that don't respond to medication can be helped with deep brain stimulation (DBS), new research concludes.

The Mayo Clinic study describes the case of a 44-year-old man who suffered more than 200 excruciating, right-sided headaches a day, each lasting 60 to 90 seconds. The condition, called Short lasting, Unilateral, Neuralgiform headache attacks with Conjuctival injection and Tearing (SUNCT), began when the man was 14. His headaches weren't relieved by medication and were so severe that he was incapacitated for the past nine years.

During the first month after surgery to implant a DBS electrode in his head, the man had an average of 45 attacks a day, and as few as four on some days. At nine months after DBS, he averaged 33 attacks a day, and that dropped to about 25 attacks a day a year after DBS.

"Our study conclusions indicate that ipsilateral hypothalamic DBS may be a viable option for patients with medically intractable SUNCT. It may result in significant reduction in frequency of headaches, though it does not eliminate them," said researcher Dr. Virgilio Gerald H. Evidente.

The study was presented Tuesday at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Chicago.

An Italian study published in 2005 described the first successful use of hypothalamic DBS to treat a patient with SUNCT.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about SUNCT headache.

Posted: April 2008


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