United States

Vagus Nerve Stimulator: Cure for Cluster Headaches?

Some patients say the pain is worse than childbirth! We’re talking about cluster headaches. Now a little device may provide big relief to the more than 350,000 people in the US who are suffering.

Heather Prattas is a busy, active mom of two young daughters.

“I bike and boot camp and paddle board,” said Prattas.

But something stopped Heather in her tracks: cluster headaches.

“They actually call them suicide headaches because you become suicidal during the headache,” Prattas said.

Dr. Teshamae Monteith, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology and Chief of the Headache Division at UHealth Department of Neurology, says cluster headache can affect both men and women. It strikes one side of the head and can occur several times a day for months called a cluster bout.

“An individual attack can last up to three hours but then it can occur multiple times a day,” explained Monteith.

Because there has been little research into the cause, there are few treatments. Prattas has been on ten different medications; oxygen was the only thing that worked.

“A tank will last me 2 or 3 headaches,” Prattas said.

Now there may be something better.

“The GammaCore is a non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator,” said Monteith.

It works by stimulating the vagus nerve and blocking pain signals that cause cluster attacks.

“So the idea of stimulating the nerve to disrupt the pain signal is a way of potentially helping patients,” Monteith continued.

Patients can control the level of stimulation. They apply it to the neck for up to two minutes. Prattas hopes the little device will help.

“That would be a godsend, absolutely,” Prattas said.

Relieving the pain so she can get back to what’s really important.

The majority of patients enrolled in clinical trials reported getting relief within 15 minutes of using the GammaCore device. It has been approved by the FDA for cluster headaches, and recently migraines. For more information please visit GammaCore.com.

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Dave Harrison, Editor.

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