Neuromodulation is an expanding field of study for headache treatment to reduce pain by targeting structures within the nervous system that are commonly involved in headache pathophysiology, such as the vagus nerve (VNS), occipital nerves, or sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) for stimulation. Pharmaceutical medical therapies for abortive and prophylactic treatment, such as triptans, NSAIDs, beta-blockers, TCAs, and antiepileptics, are effective for some individuals, but the role that technology plays in investigating other therapeutic modalities is essential. Peripheral neuromodulation has gained popularity and FDA approval for use in treating certain headaches and migraine headache conditions, particularly in those who are refractory to treatment. Early trials found FDA approved neurostimulatory implant devices, including and , improved patient-oriented outcomes with reductions in headaches per month (frequency) and severity.
This was a narrative review. The sources for this review are as follows: Searching on PubMed, Google Scholar, Medline, and ScienceDirect from 1990 – 2019 using keywords: Peripheral Neuromodulation, Headache, vagus nerve, occipital nerves, sphenopalatine ganglion.
The first noninvasive neurostimulator device approved for migraine treatment was the Cefaly device, an external trigeminal nerve stimulation device (e-TNS) that transcutaneously excites the supratrochlear and supraorbital branches of the ophthalmic nerve. The second noninvasive neurostimulation device receiving FDA approval was the single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulator, , positioned at the occiput to treat migraine with aura. GammaCore is a handheld transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulator applied directly to the neck at home by the patient for treatment of cluster headache (CH) and migraine. Several other devices are in development for the treatment of headaches and target headache evolution at different levels and inputs. The Scion device is a caloric vestibular stimulator (CVS) which interfaces with the user through a set of small cones resting in the ear canal on either side and held in place by modified over-ear headphones. The pulsante SPG Microstimulator is a patient-controlled device implanted in the patient’s upper jaw via an hour-long oral procedure to target the sphenopalatine ganglion. The occipital nerve stimulator (ONS) is an invasive neuromodulation device for headache treatment that consists of an implanted pulse generator on the chest wall connected to a subcutaneous lead with 4 – 8 electrodes that is tunneled the occiput.
The aim of this review is to provide a comprehensive overview of the efficacy, preliminary outcomes, and limitations of neurostimulatory implants available for use in the US and those pending further development.

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