Oral steroids can interrupt bouts of cluster headache (CH) attacks, but recurrence is frequent and may lead to steroid-dependency. Suboccipital steroid injection may be an effective 'single shot' alternative, but no placebo-controlled trial is available. The aim of our study was to assess in a double-blind placebo-controlled trial the preventative effect on CH attacks of an ipsilateral steroid injection in the region of the greater occipital nerve. Sixteen episodic (ECH) and seven chronic (CCH) CH outpatients were included. ECH patients were in a new bout since no more than 1 week. After a one-week run-in period, patients were allocated by randomization to the placebo or verum arms and received on the side of attacks a suboccipital injection of a mixture of long- and rapid-acting betamethasone (n=13; Verum-group) or physiological saline (n=10; Plac-group). Acute treatment was allowed at any time, additional preventative therapy if attacks persisted after 1 week. Three investigators performed the injections, while four others, blinded to group allocation, followed the patients. Follow-up visits were after 1 and 4 weeks, whereafter patients were followed routinely. Eleven Verum-group patients (3 CCH) (85%) became attack-free in the first week after the injection compared to none in the Plac-group (P=0.0001). Among them eight remained attack-free for 4 weeks (P=0.0026). Remission lasted between 4 and 26 months in five patients. A single suboccipital steroid injection completely suppresses attacks in more than 80% of CH patients. This effect is maintained for at least 4 weeks in the majority of them.
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"A reduction in the dose of additional verapamil and rescue medication taken was also seen. Ambrosini et al. [23•] conducted a blinded placebo-controlled trial on 23 patients. A single injection of suboccipital steroid led to complete attack suppression in 80 % of patients, with remission lasting at least 4 weeks. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias include cluster headache, paroxysmal hemicrania, short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks, and hemicrania continua. While the majority responds to conventional pharmacological treatments, a small but significant proportion of patients are intractable to these treatments. In these cases, alternative choices for these patients include oral and injectable drugs, lesional or resectional surgery, and neurostimulation. The evidence base for conventional treatments is limited, and the evidence for those used beyond convention is more so. At present, the most evidence exists for nerve blocks, deep brain stimulation, occipital nerve stimulation, sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation in chronic cluster headache, and microvascular decompression of the trigeminal nerve in short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks.
Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Current Pain and Headache Reports
"Another treatment option is the local infiltration of the greater occipital nerve with local anesthetics and steroids [30-32]. Two randomized-controlled trials reported a significant reduction in the number of cluster attacks after suboccipital injection of corticosteroid preparations targeting the greater occipital nerve [33,34]. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Episodic cluster headache (ECH) is a primary headache disorder that severely impairs patient's quality of life. First-line therapy in the initiation of a prophylactic treatment is verapamil. Due to its delayed onset of efficacy and the necessary slow titration of dosage for tolerability reasons prednisone is frequently added by clinicians to the initial prophylactic treatment of a cluster episode. This treatment strategy is thought to effectively reduce the number and intensity of cluster attacks in the beginning of a cluster episode (before verapamil is effective). This study will assess the efficacy and safety of oral prednisone as an add-on therapy to verapamil and compare it to a monotherapy with verapamil in the initial prophylactic treatment of a cluster episode.Methods and design: PredCH is a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with parallel study arms. Eligible patients with episodic cluster headache will be randomized to a treatment intervention with prednisone or a placebo arm. The multi-center trial will be conducted in eight German headache clinics that specialize in the treatment of ECH.
PredCH is designed to assess whether oral prednisone added to first-line agent verapamil helps reduce the number and intensity of cluster attacks in the beginning of a cluster episode as compared to monotherapy with verapamil.Trial registration: German Clinical Trials Register DRKS00004716.
"Regarding the ideal composition of the injection it is not known whether a local anesthetic or corticosteroid alone or a combination of both is more effective. While some studies used either local anesthetics or corticosteroids alone (see  for review), the additional use of a steroid is important for ONB efficacy either by prolonging effects of local anesthetics or by acting independently on nerve activity [10, 13, 35]. The additional use of opioids and clonidine has been propagated but would need further studies to fully evaluate their therapeutic potential [3, 4]. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Occipital nerve block (ONB) has been used in several primary headache syndromes with good results. Information on its effects in facial pain is sparse. In this chart review, the efficacy of ONB using lidocaine and dexamethasone was evaluated in 20 patients with craniofacial pain syndromes comprising 8 patients with trigeminal neuralgia, 6 with trigeminal neuropathic pain, 5 with persistent idiopathic facial pain and 1 with occipital neuralgia. Response was defined as an at least 50% reduction of original pain. Mean response rate was 55% with greatest efficacy in trigeminal (75%) and occipital neuralgia (100%) and less efficacy in trigeminal neuropathic pain (50%) and persistent idiopathic facial pain (20%). The effects lasted for an average of 27 days with sustained benefits for 69, 77 and 107 days in three patients. Side effects were reported in 50%, albeit transient and mild in nature. ONBs are effective in trigeminal pain involving the second and third branch and seem to be most effective in craniofacial neuralgias. They should be considered in facial pain before more invasive approaches, such as thermocoagulation or vascular decompression, are performed, given that side effects are mild and the procedure is minimally invasive.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2012 · The Journal of Headache and Pain