Occipital nerve stimulation: Effective migraine treatment?

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Occipital nerve stimulation: Effective migraine treatment?


I have chronic migraines and have had varying degrees of success with different treatments. Could occipital nerve stimulation help?

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Occipital nerve stimulation is a procedure used to treat chronic headache disorders, including chronic migraines. Although occipital nerve stimulation was first used for migraines in 1977, it is still a treatment in development.

Surgical procedures for occipital nerve stimulation vary, but in general, a small device is implanted at the base of the skull — near the occipital nerve. The device is then connected to a power source that sends electrical impulses to the occipital nerve. The power source is also implanted, often under the collarbone (clavicle), but the abdominal and gluteal areas also are options. After occipital nerve stimulation, the need for surgical revision of wire placement is common. Infection also is a risk.

Research indicates that occipital nerve stimulation may improve headaches for some people who try the therapy. However, studies on occipital nerve stimulation so far have included only a small number of participants — and long-term results aren't yet available.

The bottom line? Although there's evidence that occipital nerve stimulation can be effective in the treatment of chronic headache disorders, more studies are needed before the approach can be considered a routine headache treatment.

Last Updated: 2010-11-13
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