Chronic stimulation of the posterior hypothalamic region for cluster headache: Technique and 1-year results in four patients

Philip A. Starr, Nicholas M. Barbaro, Neil H. Raskin, Jill L. Ostrem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

98 Scopus citations


Object. Cluster headache (CH) is the most severe of the primary headache disorders. Based on the finding that regional cerebral blood flow is increased in the ipsilateral posterior hypothalamic region during a CH attack, a novel neurosurgical procedure for CH was recently introduced: hypothalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS). Two small case series have been described. Here, the authors report their technical approach, intraoperative physiological observations, and 1-year outcomes after hypothalamic DBS in four patients with medically intractable CHs. Methods. Patients underwent unilateral magnetic resonance (MR) imaging-guided stereotactic implantation of a Medtronic DBS (model 3387) lead and Soletra pulse generator system. Intended tip coordinates were 3 mm posterior, 5 mm inferior, and 2 mm lateral to the midcommissural point. Microelectrode recording and intraoperative test stimulation were performed. Lead locations were measured on postoperative MR images. The intensity, frequency, and severity of headaches throughout a 1-week period were tracked in patient diaries immediately prior to surgery and after 1 year of continuous stimulation. At the 1-year follow-up examination, DBS had produced a greater than 50% reduction in headache intensity or frequency in two of four cases. Active contacts were located 3 to 6 mm posterior to the mammillothalamic tract. Neurons in the target region showed low-frequency tonic discharge. Conclusions. In two previously published case series, headache relief was obtained in many but not all patients. The results of these open-label studies justify a larger, prospective trial but do not yet justify widespread clinical application of this technique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)999-1005
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007


  • Cluster headache
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Hypothalamus
  • Neuronal recording

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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