Several neuromodulation methods exists for migraine treatment. The aim of the present study was to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) focusing on migraine treatment using neurostimulation methods.
We searched Medline and Embase up to July 1, 2020 for RCTs reporting acute or preventive treatment of migraine with either non-invasive or invasive neurostimulation methods. Two researchers independently assessed the eligibility of the retrieved studies and extracted data. Outcomes for the quantitative synthesis were 2 h pain free for acute treatment and headache days per month for preventive treatment. We performed subgroup analyses by treatment (stimulation method and site of application). Estimates were pooled using random-effects meta-analysis.
Thirty-eight articles were included in the qualitative analysis (7 acute, 31 preventive) and 34 in the quantitative evaluation (6 acute, 28 preventive). Remote electrical neuromodulation (REN) was effective for acute treatment. Data were insufficient to draw conclusions for any other techniques (single studies). Invasive occipital nerve stimulation (ONS) was effective for migraine prevention, with a large effect size but considerable heterogeneity, whereas supra-orbital transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS), and high-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the primary motor cortex (M1) were effective, with small to medium effect sizes. Vagus-nerve stimulation, left prefrontal cortex rTMS, and cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the M1 had no significant effect and heterogeneity was high.
Several neuromodulation methods are of potential interest for migraine management, but the quality of the evidence is very poor. Future large and well-conducted studies are needed and could improve on the present results.
The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1186/s10194-020-01204-4.