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Acta Neurochir Suppl. 2007;97(Pt 2):99-110.

Neuromodulatory approaches to the treatment of trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias.

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The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, UK.


The trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs) are a group of primary headache syndromes characterised by intense pain and associated activation of cranial parasympathetic autonomic outflow pathways out of proportion to the pain. The TACs include cluster headache, paroxysmal hemicrania and SUNCT (short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing). The pathophysiology of these syndromes involves activation of the trigeminal-autonomic reflex, whose afferent limb projects into the trigeminocervical complex in the caudal brainstem and upper cervical spinal cord. Functional brain imaging has shown activations in the posterior hypothalamic grey matter in TACs. This paper reviews the anatomy and physiology of these conditions and the brain imaging findings. Current treatments are summarised and the role of neuromodulation procedures, such as occipital nerve stimulation and deep brain stimulation in the posterior hypothalamus are reviewed. Neuromodulatory procedures are a promising avenue for these highly disabled patients with treatment refractory TACs.

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