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Original Investigation
May 10, 2018

Treatment of Frontal Secondary Headache Attributed to Supratrochlear and Supraorbital Nerve Entrapment With Oral Medication or Botulinum Toxin Type A vs Endoscopic Decompression Surgery

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otorhinolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Center for Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Diakonessen Hospital, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 2Department of Otorhinolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University Hospital Sveti Duh, Zagreb, Croatia
  • 3Department of Otorhinolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Central Military Hospital, Utrecht, the Netherlands
JAMA Facial Plast Surg. Published online May 10, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamafacial.2018.0268
Key Points

Question  Can endoscopic surgical decompression of the supratrochlear nerve and supraorbital nerve alleviate frontal chronic headache?

Findings  In this cohort study of 22 patients with chronic headaches, the headache visual analog scale intensity variables (for medication therapy, botulinum toxin injection, surgery) improved significantly when compared with baseline values. Treatment outcomes of decompression surgery were significantly higher when compared with other treatment options used in this study.

Meaning  Endoscopic decompression surgery can demonstrate a long-lasting successful outcomes in frontal secondary headache attributed to supratrochlear nerve and supraorbital nerve entrapment.


Importance  Endoscopic surgical decompression of the supratrochlear nerve (STN) and supraorbital nerve (SON) is a new treatment for patients with frontal chronic headache who are refractory to standard treatment options.

Objective  To evaluate and compare treatment outcomes of oral medication, botulinum toxin type A (BoNT/A) injections, and endoscopic decompression surgery in frontal secondary headache attributed to STN and supraorbital SON entrapment.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Prospective cohort study of 22 patients from a single institution (Diakonessen Hospital Utrecht) with frontal headache of moderate-to-severe intensity (visual analog scale [VAS] score, 7-10), frontally located, experienced more than 15 days per month, and described as pressure or tension that intensifies with pressure on the area of STN and SON. A screening algorithm was used that included examination, questionnaire, computed tomography of the sinus, injections of local anesthetic, and BoNT/A in the corrugator muscle.

Interventions  Different oral medication therapy for headache encountered in the study cohort, as well as BoNT/A injections (15 IU) into the corrugator muscle. Surgical procedures were performed by a single surgeon using an endoscopic surgical approach to release the supraorbital ridge periosteum and to bluntly dissect the glabellar muscle group.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Headache VAS intensity after oral medication and BoNT/A injections. Additionally, early postoperative follow-up consisted of a daily headache questionnaire that was evaluated after 1 year.

Results  In total, 22 patients (mean [SD] age, 42.0 [15.3] years; 7 men and 15 women) were included in this cohort study. Oral medication therapy reduced the headache intensity significantly (mean [standard error of the mean {SEM}] VAS score, 6.45 [0.20] [95% CI, 0.34-3.02; P < .001] compared with mean [SEM] pretreatment VAS score, 8.13 [0.22]). Botulinum toxin type A decreased the mean (SEM) headache intensity VAS scores significantly as well (pretreatment, 8.1 [0.22] vs posttreatment, 2.9 [0.42]; 95% CI, 3.89-6.56; P < .001). The mean (SEM) pretreatment headache intensity VAS score (8.10 [0.22]) decreased significantly after surgery at 3 months (1.30 [0.55]; 95% CI, 5.48-8.16; P < .001) and 12 months (1.09 [0.50]; 95% CI, 5.71-8.38; P < .001). There was a significant decrease of headache intensity VAS score in the surgical group over the BoNT/A group (mean [SEM] VAS score, 2.90 [0.42]) after 3 months (mean [SEM] VAS score, 1.30 [0.55]; 95% CI, 0.25-2.93; P < .001) and 12 months (mean [SEM] VAS score, 1.09 [0.50]; 95% CI, 0.48-3.16; P < .001) after surgery.

Conclusions and Relevance  Endoscopic decompression surgery had a long-lasting successful outcome in this type of frontal secondary headache. Even though BoNT/A had a positive effect, the effect of surgery was significantly higher.

Level of Evidence  3.