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Defined as a headache lasting at least 15 days per month, chronic headache is reported by 3% of the general population, and a substantial proportion of them are refractory to current therapies. Occipital nerve stimulation (ONS) is a treatment option, but is still considered as a last resort treatment especially because of its invasive nature and the cost associated. Some reviews reported a limited efficacy of ONS for the treatment of migraines, with a high risk of complications. However, results reporting its efficacy and safety on other headache disorders are unclear. The aim of this review is to assess the efficacy and safety of ONS in regards to non-migrainous chronic headaches.
We will conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies evaluating the use of ONS in comparison to sham stimulation or the best available treatment in patients with chronic headache. MEDLINE, CINHAL, EMBASE, PsycINFO, ECRI Institute Library, WIKISTIM, the Cochrane Library databases, and clinical trial registries will be searched for eligible studies. The review will include adult patients diagnosed with chronic headache excluding migraine. Two independent reviewers will process to the screening of studies according to titles, abstracts, and then full texts. The primary outcome is the overall reduction of head pain severity. The secondary outcomes are rates of reduction in the severity of head pain, headache frequency, and duration, use of medication, impairment, quality of life, healthcare utilization, return to work, and adverse events. Extracted data will include patients’ and procedure characteristics, details on comparative treatment or sham, and clinical outcomes. The risk of bias of the studies will be also independently assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias tools.
This systematic review will allow us to better evaluate the potential role of ONS for the treatment of patients with chronic headache that are refractory to less invasive therapies. It will help to determine the degree of safety of ONS. Moreover, it will help to design and conduct future randomized controlled trials focused on patients who may better respond to such treatment.
Systematic review registration