FDA Approves New Device to Treat Cluster Headaches
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a device called a vagus nerve stimulator to relieve pain associated with cluster headaches. Cluster headaches cause debilitating pain that is often difficult to treat. The condition is uncommon is usually affects men.
Vagus nerve stimulators are designed to disrupt signals within the vagus nerve, which runs throughout the torso, from the brain to the colon, and is involved in several bodily responses. Precisely how the device works in not understood at this time. The hand-held device, which is approved to treat other conditions, including depression and epilepsy, is pressed against the neck to administer treatment. It can be used as often as necessary and does not cause side effects.
A study published in September 2016, showed that vagus nerve stimulation reduced cluster headache pain in between 25 and 33 percent of patients—compared to 15 percent who reported pain relief from a placebo. The device is expected to become available in the United States later this year.
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