Occipital nerve stimulation (ONS) and deep brain stimulation (DBS) are widely used surgical treatments for chronic refractory cluster headache (CH). However, there is little literature regarding long-term follow-up of these treatments.
The authors describe two prospective cohorts of patients with refractory CH treated with ONS and DBS and compare preoperative to postoperative status at 6 and 12 months after the surgery and at final follow-up. Efficacy analysis using objective and subjective variables is reported, as well as medication reduction and complications.
The ONS group consisted of 13 men and 4 women, with a median age of 44 years (range 31–61 years). The median number of attacks per week (NAw) before surgery was 28 (range 7–70), and the median follow-up duration was 48 months. The DBS group comprised 5 men and 2 women, with a median age of 50 years (range 29–64 years). The median NAw before surgery was 56 (range 14–140), and the median follow-up was 36 months. The NAw and visual analog scale score were significantly reduced for the ONS and DBS groups after surgery. However, while all the patients from the DBS group were considered responders at final follow-up, with more than 85% being satisfied with the treatment, approximately 29% of initial responders to ONS became resistant by the final follow-up (p = 0.0253).
ONS is initially effective as a treatment for refractory CH, although a trend toward loss of efficacy was observed. No clear predictors of good clinical response were found in the present study. Conversely, DBS appears to be effective and provide a more stable clinical response over time with an acceptable rate of surgical complications.