Treating cluster headaches with high-flow oxygen appears effective

Dec 08, 2009

Patients with a cluster headache, which is characterized by bouts of excruciating pain usually near the eye or temple, were more likely to report being pain-free within 15 minutes of treatment with high-flow oxygen than patients who received a placebo treatment, according to a study in the December 9 issue of JAMA.

Cluster headache attacks typically last for 15 minutes to 3 hours untreated and have a frequency of 1 every other day for up to 8 attacks a day. Attacks usually occur in bouts, or clusters, lasting for weeks or months, separated by remissions lasting months or years, according to background information in the article. The current treatment for acute attacks of cluster headache is injection with the drug sumatriptan, but frequent dosing is not recommended because of adverse effects. Another treatment option is the inhalation of high-dose, high-flow oxygen, but its use may be limited because of the lack of a good quality controlled trial.

Anna S. Cohen, Ph.D., M.R.C.P., of the National Hospital for and Neurosurgery, London, and colleagues conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of high-flow oxygen for the treatment of acute attacks of cluster headache. The study included 109 adults (ages 18-70 years). Patients treated four cluster headache episodes alternately with high-flow oxygen (inhaled oxygen at 100 percent, 12 L/min, delivered by , for 15 minutes at the start of an attack) or placebo (high-flow air). Patients were recruited and followed up between 2002 and 2007. The final analysis included 57 patients with episodic cluster headache and 19 with chronic cluster headache.

The researchers found that 78 percent of the patients who received oxygen reported being pain-free or to have adequate relief within 15 minutes of treatment, compared to 20 percent of patients who received air. For other outcomes, such as being pain-free at 30 minutes or a reduction in pain up to 60 minutes, treatment with oxygen was superior to air. There were no serious adverse events related to the treatments.

"To our knowledge, this is the first adequately powered trial of high-flow oxygen compared with , and it confirms clinical experience and current guidelines that inhaled oxygen can be used as an acute attack therapy for episodic and chronic cluster headache," the authors write.

"This work paves the way for further studies to optimize the administration of and its more widespread use as an acute attack treatment in cluster headache, offering an evidence-based alternative to those who cannot take triptan agents."

More information: JAMA. 2009;302[22]:2451-2457

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals (news : web)

Explore further: Team makes breakthrough in understanding Canavan disease

Related Stories

New treatment effective for most severe kind of headache

Aug 27, 2007

A nasal spray is safe and effective at rapidly treating cluster headaches, which are considered to be the most painful kind of headache with few treatment options, according to a study published in the August 28, 2007, issue ...

Nerve stimulation therapy alleviates pain for chronic headache

Oct 09, 2008

A novel therapy using a miniature nerve stimulator instead of medication for the treatment of profoundly disabling headache disorders improved the experience of pain by 80-95 percent, according to a new study from the University ...

Study shows that exercise reduces migraine suffering

Mar 26, 2009

While physical exercise has been shown to trigger migraine headaches among sufferers, a new study describes an exercise program that is well tolerated by patients. The findings show that the program decreased the frequency ...

Drug for cluster headaches may cause heart problems

Aug 13, 2007

A drug increasingly used to prevent cluster headaches can cause heart problems, according to a study published in the August 14, 2007, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Those taking ...

Recommended for you

Team makes breakthrough in understanding Canavan disease

7 minutes ago

UC Davis investigators have settled a long-standing controversy surrounding the molecular basis of an inherited disorder that historically affected Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe but now also arises in other populations ...

Finding the body clock's molecular reset button

3 hours ago

An international team of scientists has discovered what amounts to a molecular reset button for our internal body clock. Their findings reveal a potential target to treat a range of disorders, from sleep ...

A 'GPS' to navigate the brain's neuronal networks

4 hours ago

In new research published today by Nature Methods, scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Harvard University have announced a "Neuronal Positioning System" (NPS) that maps the circuitry of the ...

Neurons constantly rewrite their DNA

4 hours ago

Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered that neurons are risk takers: They use minor "DNA surgeries" to toggle their activity levels all day, every day. Since these activity levels are important in learning, ...

Hate to diet? It's how we are wired

4 hours ago

If you're finding it difficult to stick to a weight-loss diet, scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus say you can likely blame hunger-sensitive cells in your brain known ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.