Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block Studied to Treat Migraine in Children


March 5, 2017—According to new research presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington, DC, the minimally invasive sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) block treatment that is used to treat migraine headaches in adults is also safe and effective for treating children and teenagers.

As explained in the SIR announcement, the SPG block treatment uses a small flexible catheter that is inserted into each nostril and a local anesthetic is administered to the SPG at the back of the nose. The SPG is a nerve bundle thought to be associated with a migraine. Briefly disabling the SPG can disrupt and reset the headache circuit, breaking a cycle of severe migraines and reducing the need for medication. The SPG block takes almost immediate effect with relief potentially lasting for months, reported the study investigators.

In the study, Robin Kaye, MD, and her colleagues conducted 310 treatments in 200 patients aged 7 to 18 years at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Patients’ pain levels before the intervention were recorded on a scale of 1 to 10. Ten minutes after the treatment, patients were asked to compare their pain level, using the same scale. The investigators saw a statistically significant decrease in the headache scores, with an average pain score reduction of just more than two points on the 10-point scale. Dr. Kaye is Section Chief of Interventional Radiology in the Department of Medical Imaging at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

SPG blocks are not a first-line treatment, investigators advised. A child only qualifies for the therapy if he or she has been diagnosed with a severe migraine that has not responded to first-line treatments.

In the SIR press release, Dr. Kaye commented, “This treatment, performed in an outpatient setting by an interventional radiologist, can safely relieve a child’s migraine quickly. By reducing the need for medications that come with serious side effects or intravenous therapies that may require hospital stays, children don’t have to miss as much school and can get back to being a kid sooner.”

Dr. Kaye advised, “While it isn’t a cure for migraines, this treatment has the potential to really improve the quality of life for many children. It can be performed easily, without complications, and gives quick pain relief, which is important to parents who want to see their children happy, healthy, and pain free again. If needed, we can also repeat the treatment if or when the migraine returns.”

The SIR abstract (#10), “Safety and Efficacy of Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blockade in Children—Initial Experience,” can be accessed online at sirmeeting.org.


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