Occipital Nerve Stimulation

Occipital Nerve Stimulation is a particular type of peripheral nerve field stimulation used in the treatment of migraine, cluster and certain other types of severe headache that are unresponsive to conservative treatments. It is also used to treat occipital neuralgia. Occipital Nerve Stimulation uses small electrodes implanted under the skin to gently stimulate the Occipital Nerve. These electrical impulses travel through the nerve and inhibit the pain sensation. The electrode leads are connected to a battery powered implanted pulse generator (IPG) that is similar in size to a pacemaker. This pulse generator is also secured under the skin and can be controlled remotely via a hand-held controller.

Although most types of headache can be adequately treated with medication and lifestyle modification, Occipital Nerve Stimulation is an option when severe, intractable headaches are resistant to all other treatments. If your doctor decides that Occipital Nerve Stimulation is indicated for your condition, a comprehensive trial is then performed. A trial involves the insertion of small electrodes under the skin at the base of the head. This is performed as a day procedure with the assistance of an anaesthetist to administer sedation. The electrodes remain in place for approximately one week to determine the effectiveness of the treatment. If significant reduction in symptoms and improvement in functional capabilities result during the trial, a permanent implant may then be considered.

A permanent implant is performed under general anaesthetic. Small leads are placed under the skin near the occipital nerves. The leads are then tunnelled under the skin to connect to an IPG which is usually secured in a similar position on the chest wall, similar to where a pacemaker would sit. 

Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner. Northern Pain Centre can facilitate you obtaining a second opinion. Please discuss this with us.