The proximity of sensory neurons in the upper cervical spinal cord to the trigeminal nucleus caudalis (TNC) neurons and the convergence of sensory input to TNC neurons from both cervical and trigeminal fibers underscore the rationale of using greater occipital nerve block (GON-block) for acute and preventive treatment in various headache disorders.
The aim of this study was to critically review the existing literature regarding the safety and efficacy of GON-block in various headache disorders.
We searched the eligible studies in English by searching in PubMed till December 31, 2020 for randomized controlled trials (RCTs), observational studies, open-label studies, case series, and case reports on the efficacy and the safety of GON-block for the treatment of headache disorders using the keywords “greater occipital nerve block”, “headache” and “treatment”. Studies using combination of GON-block and other peripheral nerve blocks (PNBs) and C2/C3 blocks were excluded.
Seventy-two eligible studies were reviewed. Based on RCTs and open-label studies, good evidence of the efficacy of GON-block was found for migraine, cluster headache (CH), post-dural puncture headache (PDPH), cervicogenic headache (CGH), and occipital neuralgia (ON). The analgesic effect of GON-block outlasted its anesthetic effect by days to weeks. Evidence for acute and short-term (transitional) treatment was more robust than for long-term prevention. GON-block was found to be safe and the treatment-emergent adverse effects (TEAEs) were generally mild and transient.
GON-block is a useful modality of treatment in various headache disorders because of many attractive features such as its early effect in reducing the severity of pain, sustained effect following a single injection, easy technique, minimum invasiveness, minimum TEAE, no drug-to-drug interactions, and negligible cost.