External trigeminal nerve stimulation: Potential rescue treatment for acute vestibular migraine

  • Shin C. Beh
    Corresponding author at: Department of Neurology, UT Southwestern Medical Center, 5323, Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390, United States of America.
    Department of Neurology, UT Southwestern Medical Center, United States of America
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Published:October 25, 2019DOI:


      • eTNS (Cefaly®) might relieve vertigo in acute vestibular migraine (VM).
      • eTNS might be a non-invasive, safe, drug-free potential rescue treatment for VM.
      • Trigemino-vestibular interconnections may explain how eTNS relieves VM.



      Vestibular migraine (VM) is the most common neurologic cause of vertigo among adults. However, there are no specifically studied or approved rescue therapies for acute VM attacks. This study describes how external trigeminal nerve stimulation (eTNS) using the Cefaly® (CEFALY Technology, Seraing, Belgium) device relieves acute VM episodes.


      Single-center, retrospective review of 19 patients with acute VM attacks (seen between May 2018 and June 2019) treated with 20-min eTNS. Prior to treatment, patients graded the severity of their vertigo/headache using a 10-point visual analog scale (VAS) with 0 representing no vertigo/headache, and 10 representing the worst imaginable vertigo/headache. After eTNS, patients graded their vertigo/headache using the same VAS 15 min. In addition, bedside neuro-otologic examination was performed before and after treatment.


      19/19 patients reported improvement in vertigo severity. Mean vertigo severity was 6.6 (±2.1; median 7) before eTNS, and 2.7 (±2.6; median 3) following treatment; mean improvement in vertigo was 61.3% (±32.6; median 50.0%). During VM episodes, 14/19 experienced headache. Mean headache severity was 4.8 (±2.4; median 4.5) before eTNS, and was 1.4 (±2.4; median 0) following treatment; mean improvement in headache was 77.2% (±32.7; median 100.0%). Neuro-otologic examination was normal during VM attacks in all except Patient 7 who had spontaneous upbeat nystagmus which resolved after eTNS. Other improvements include improvement of eye pressure, head pressure, and chronic facial pain. No intolerable side effects were reported.


      This study provides preliminary evidence that eTNS is a novel, non-invasive, safe and effective treatment for acute VM attacks.


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