Sphenopalatine ganglion volumetry in episodic cluster headache: from symptom laterality to cranial autonomic symptoms

Jr Wei Wu, Shu Ting Chen, Yen Feng Wang, Kuan Lin Lai, Ting Yi Chen, Shih Pin Chen, Wei Ta Chen, Shuu-Jiun Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) is a peripheral structure that plays an important role in cluster headache (CH). Hence, a reliable method to measure the volume of SPG is crucial for studying the peripheral mechanism of CH. Additionally, the association between the clinical profiles and the morphology of the SPG in CH remains undetermined. This study aims to use the manual measurement of SPG volume to investigate its associations with CH, including headache laterality, cranial autonomic symptoms (CASs), presence of restlessness or agitation, and other clinical profiles. Methods: We prospectively recruited consecutive CH patients at a tertiary medical center between April 2020 and April 2022. A total of eighty side-locked, in-bout, episodic CH patients and 40 non-headache healthy controls received 1.5 T brain MRI focusing on structural neuroimaging of the SPG. The manual measurement process for SPG was under axial and sagittal FIESTA imaging, with reference T2 weight images (sagittal and axial) for localization. The inter-observer agreement of the SPG volume (both sides of the SPG from CH patients and controls) between the two observers was calculated. In CH patients, clinical profiles and the number of CASs (range 0–5) were recorded to analyze their association with SPG volume. Results: The inter-observer agreement between the two raters was excellent for the new SPG volumetry method at 0.88 (95% CI: 0.84–0.90, p < 0.001). The mean [SD] SPG volume was larger in CH patients than in non-headache controls (35.89 [12.94] vs. 26.13 [8.62] μL, p < 0.001). In CH patients, the SPG volume was larger on the pain side than on the non-pain side (38.87 [14.71] vs. 32.91 [12.70] μL, p < 0.001). The number of CASs was positively moderately correlated with the pain-side SPG volume (Pearson r = 0.320, p = 0.004) but not the non-pain side SPG volume (Pearson r = 0.207, p = 0.066). Conclusions: This proof-of-concept study successfully measured the SPG volume and demonstrated its associations with symptomatology in patients with episodic CH. The direct measurement of SPG provide insights into studies on peripheral mechanism of CH.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Cluster headache
  • Cranial autonomic symptom
  • Sphenopalatine ganglion


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