Peripheral Nerve Blocks for the Treatment of Headache in Older Adults: A Retrospective Study

Jacob R. Hascalovici, Matthew S. Robbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective of this study is to provide demographical and clinical descriptions of patients age 65 years old and older who were treated with peripheral nerve blocks (PNBs) at our institution and evaluate the safety and efficacy of this treatment. Background: Headache disorders are common, disabling chronic neurological diseases that often persist with advancing age. Geriatric headache management poses unique therapeutic challenges because of considerations of comorbidity, drug interactions, and adverse effects. Peripheral nerve blocks are commonly used for acute and short-term prophylactic treatment for headache disorders and may be a safer alternative to standard pharmacotherapy in this demographic. Design: We performed a single center, retrospective chart review of patients at least 65 years of age who received peripheral nerve blocks for headache management over a 6 year period. Results: Sixty-four patients were mostly female (78%) with an average age of 71 years (range 65-94). Representative headache diagnoses were chronic migraine 50%, episodic migraine 12.5%, trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia 9.4%, and occipital neuralgia 7.8%. Average number of headache days/month was 23. Common comorbidities were hypertension 48%, hyperlipidemia 42%, arthritis 27%, depression 47%, and anxiety 33%. Eighty-nine percent were prescribed at least 1 medication fulfilling the Beers criteria. The average number of peripheral nerve blocks per patient was 4. Peripheral nerve blocks were felt to be effective in 73% for all headaches, 81% for chronic migraine, 75% for episodic migraine, 67% for chronic tension type headache, 67% for new daily persistent headache, and 60% for occipital neuralgia. There were no adverse events related to PNBs reported. Conclusions: PNBs might be a safe and effective alternative headache management strategy for older adults. Medical and psychiatric comorbidities, medication overuse, and Beers list medication rates were extraordinarily high, giving credence to the use of peripherally administered therapies in the geriatric population that may be better tolerated and safer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-86
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • geriatrics
  • headache
  • migraine
  • occipital nerve
  • peripheral nerve blocks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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