Is Noninvasive Vagus Nerve Stimulation a Safe and Effective Alternative to Medication for Acute Migraine Control?

Benzion Blech, Amaal J. Starling, Lisa A. Marks, Dean M. Wingerchuk, Cumara B. O'Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Noninvasive neuromodulation devices have been used for a variety of headache disorders, including cluster and migraine, since recently being cleared by the Federal Drug Administration. Although these devices have been touted as low-risk options for improved headache control, the data behind actual efficacy endpoints remain unclear. OBJECTIVE: To critically assess current evidence regarding the efficacy of the noninvasive vagus nerve stimulator (nVNS) device for acute migraine management. METHODS: The objective was addressed through the development of a structured critically appraised topic. This included a clinical scenario with a clinical question, literature search strategy, critical appraisal, results, evidence summary, commentary, and bottom line conclusions.Participants included consultant and resident neurologists, a medical librarian, clinical epidemiologists, and a content expert in the field of headache. RESULTS: A randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled clinical trial was selected for critical appraisal. In this trial, the primary endpoint (pain freedom at 120 min after use of nVNS for first acute migraine attack) was not met when compared with sham device (30.4% for nVNS vs. 19.7% for sham; P=0.067). However, there were statistically significant differences found for various secondary endpoints favoring nVNS, such as pain freedom rates at 30 and 60 minutes, pain relief at 120 minutes, and mean percentage pain score reduction rates at 60 and 120 minutes. CONCLUSIONS: When comparing nVNS with sham, no statistically significant differences were found with regards to the primary endpoint of pain freedom at 120 minutes, although differences were found with various secondary endpoints and post hoc analysis. nVNS is likely a safe alternative to medications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-100
Number of pages4
JournalThe neurologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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