The debilitating nature of migraine and challenges associated with treatment-refractory migraine have a profound impact on patients. With the need for alternatives to pharmacologic agents, vagus nerve stimulation has demonstrated efficacy in treatment-refractory primary headache disorders. We investigated the use of cervical non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS) for the acute treatment and prevention of migraine attacks in treatment-refractory episodic and chronic migraine (EM and CM) and evaluated the impact of nVNS on migraine-associated sleep disturbance, disability, and depressive symptoms.
Twenty patients with treatment-refractory migraine were enrolled in this 3-month, open-label, prospective observational study. Patients administered nVNS prophylactically twice daily at prespecified times and acutely as adjunctive therapy for migraine attacks. The following parameters were evaluated: pain intensity (visual analogue scale [VAS]); number of headache days per month and number of migraine attacks per month; number of acutely treated attacks; sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index [PSQI]); migraine disability assessment (MIDAS); depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory® [BDI]); and adverse events (AEs).
Of the 20 enrolled patients, 10 patients each had been diagnosed with EM and CM. Prophylaxis with nVNS was associated with significant overall reductions in patient-perceived pain intensity; median (interquartile range) VAS scores at baseline versus 3 months were 8.0 (7.5, 8.0) versus 4.0 (3.5, 5.0) points (p < 0.001). Baseline versus 3-month values (mean ± standard error of the mean) were 14.7 ± 0.9 versus 8.9 ± 0.8 (p < 0.001) for the number of headache days per month and 7.3 ± 0.9 versus 4.5 ± 0.6 (p < 0.001) for the number of attacks per month. Significant improvements were also noted in MIDAS (p < 0.001), BDI (p < 0.001), and PSQI global (p < 0.001) scores. No severe or serious AEs occurred.
In this study, treatment with nVNS was safe and provided clinically meaningful decreases in the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks in patients with treatment-refractory migraine. Improvements in migraine-associated disability, depression, and sleep quality were also noted.