Percutaneous Bioelectric Current Stimulation for Chronic Cluster Headache: A Possible Transformative Approach to Cluster Headache

Albrecht Molsberger* (Corresponding Author), Colin D McCaig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Cluster headache (CH) is considered to be a catastrophic disease presenting the most severe human pain condition. Available pharmacological treatments are hampered by unwanted side effects, and there is an urgent need for non-pharmacological treatment alternatives. We present a novel therapeutic approach for chronic CH, having evolved from an episodic CH, using a non-invasive percutaneous bioelectric current stimulation (PBCS), which generates static electric fields in the range of the naturally occurring electric potentials.

Patients and Methods: This study employed a retrospective data analysis of 20 cases of chronic cluster headache (CCH) patients, four of those having had cluster-related surgery (SPG, ONS). All patients were treated with PBCS between 2014 and 2018. Data of these patients were analyzed with respect to frequency of CH attacks and triptan application and followed up for one (20 cases) or two (12 cases) years.

Results: Four weeks after the first PBCS treatment, cluster headache attacks were reduced from 2.8 to 1.7 per day and triptan application decreased from 2.5 to 1.5 times/day. Six non-responders, 4 of which had pre-CH surgery, did not show any reaction to PBCS, while 14 responders improved within 4 weeks from 2.2 to 0.7 attacks/day and 2.0 to 0.4 triptan applications/day. A 50% or greater reduction of attack frequency was observed in 10 patients after 4 weeks and in 11 patients after 12 weeks. One year after the first treatment, 13/20 patients experienced a reduction of attack frequency of 50% or more, while remarkably 10 patients were completely free of attack. After 2 years, 8 of 12 patients experienced a reduction of attack frequency of 50% or more and 7 of those were completely symptom-free. No serious adverse effects were observed.

Conclusion: PBCS is a promising transformative treatment approach for CCH patients. Drug consumption was reduced significantly, and the CCH may revert back to an episodic cluster headache with increasingly long times of remission. Responders can be clearly differentiated from non-responders. The data support the need for randomized controlled trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)817-828
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pain Research
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Consent for publication has been obtained from all thepatients who are shown on the videos.
Author Contributions
AM treated the patients, collected the data, collectedthe follow up data and wrote the manuscript. CMC participated in data analysis, contributed to the discus-sion of the electrophysiological background and con-tributed to writing and correcting the manuscript. Both authors reviewed and approved the manuscript. All authors contributed to data analysis, drafting or revis-ing the article, gave final approval of the version to be published, and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.


  • chronic cluster headache
  • bioelectric current
  • pain
  • direct current
  • Pain
  • Direct current
  • Chronic cluster headache
  • Bioelectric current


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