Pterygopalatine Fossa Blockade as Novel, Narcotic-Sparing Treatment for Headache in Patients with Spontaneous Subarachnoid Hemorrhage


By Cameron R. Smith, W. Christopher Fox, Christopher P. Robinson, Cynthia Garvan, Marc-Alain Babi, Michael A. Pizzi, Erica Lobmeyer, Alberto Bursian, Carolina B. Maciel & Katharina M. Busl

First Online: 05 January 2021


Severe headache is a hallmark clinical feature of spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), affecting nearly 90% of patients during index hospitalization, regardless of the SAH severity or presence of a culprit aneurysm. Up to 1 in 4 survivors of SAH experience chronic headaches, which may be severe and last for years. Data guiding the optimal management of post-SAH headache are lacking. Opioids, often in escalating doses, remain the guideline-recommended mainstay of acute therapy, but pain relief remains suboptimal.


This study is a case series of adult patients who received bilateral pterygopalatine fossa (PPF) blockade for the management of refractory headaches after spontaneous SAH (aneurysmal and non-aneurysmal) at a single tertiary care center. We examined pain scores and analgesic requirements before and after block placement.


Seven patients (median age 54 years, 3 men, four aneurysmal and three non-aneurysmal) received a PPF-block between post-bleed day 6–11 during index hospitalization in the neurointensive care unit. The worst pain recorded in the 24-h period before the block was significantly higher than in the period 4 h after the block (9.1 vs. 3.1; p = 0.0156), and in the period 8 h after the block (9.1 vs. 2.8; p = 0.0313). The only complication was minor oozing from the needle insertion sites, which subsided completely with gauze pressure within 1 min.


PPF blockade might constitute a promising opioid-sparing therapeutic strategy for the management of post-SAH headache that merits further prospective controlled randomized studies.

Read full article here.