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1.  Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania in paediatric age: report of two cases 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2011;12(2):263-267.
Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania (CPH) is a rare primary headache syndrome, which is classified along with hemicrania continua and short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) as trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TACs). CPH is characterised by short-lasting (2–30 min), severe and multiple (more than 5/day) pain attacks. Headache is unilateral, and fronto-orbital-temporal pain is combined with cranial autonomic symptoms. According to the International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd edition, the attacks are absolutely responsive to indomethacin. CPH has been only rarely and incompletely described in the developmental age. Here, we describe two cases concerning a 7-year-old boy and a 11-year-old boy with short-lasting, recurrent headache combined with cranial autonomic features. Pain was described as excruciating, and was non-responsive to most traditional analgesic drugs. The clinical features of our children’s headache and the positive response to indomethacin led us to propose the diagnosis of CPH. Therefore, our children can be included amongst the very few cases of this trigeminal autonomic cephalgia described in the paediatric age.
doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0315-7
PMCID: PMC3072501  PMID: 21340658
Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania; Trigeminal autonomic cephalgias; Children; Indomethacin
2.  Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania in paediatric age: report of two cases 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2011;12(2):263-267.
Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania (CPH) is a rare primary headache syndrome, which is classified along with hemicrania continua and short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) as trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TACs). CPH is characterised by short-lasting (2–30 min), severe and multiple (more than 5/day) pain attacks. Headache is unilateral, and fronto-orbital-temporal pain is combined with cranial autonomic symptoms. According to the International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd edition, the attacks are absolutely responsive to indomethacin. CPH has been only rarely and incompletely described in the developmental age. Here, we describe two cases concerning a 7-year-old boy and a 11-year-old boy with short-lasting, recurrent headache combined with cranial autonomic features. Pain was described as excruciating, and was non-responsive to most traditional analgesic drugs. The clinical features of our children’s headache and the positive response to indomethacin led us to propose the diagnosis of CPH. Therefore, our children can be included amongst the very few cases of this trigeminal autonomic cephalgia described in the paediatric age.
doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0315-7
PMCID: PMC3072501  PMID: 21340658
Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania; Trigeminal autonomic cephalgias; Children; Indomethacin
3.  Linear headache: a recurrent unilateral head pain circumscribed in a line-shaped area 
Background
A headache circumscribed in a line-shaped area but not confined to the territory of one particular nerve had ever been described in Epicrania Fugax (EF) of which the head pain is moving and ultrashort. In a 25-month period from Feb 2012 to Mar 2014, we encountered 12 patients with a paroxysmal motionless head pain restricted in a linear trajectory. The head pain trajectory was similar to that of EF, but its all other features obviously different from those of EF. We named this distinctive but undescribed type of headache linear headache (LH).
Methods
A detailed clinical feature of the headache was obtained in all cases to differentiate with EF, trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs) and cranial neuralgia. Similarities and differences in clinical features were compared between LH and migraine.
Results
The twelve LH patients (mean age 43.9 ± 12.2) complained of a recurrent, moderate to severe, distending (n = 9), pressure-like (n = 3) or pulsating (n = 3) pain within a strictly unilateral line-shaped area. The painful line is distributed from occipital or occipitocervical region to the ipsilateral eye (n = 5), forehead (n = 6) or parietal region (n = 1). The pain line has a trajecory similar to that of EF but no characteristics of moving. The headache duration would be ranged from five minutes to three days, but usually from half day to one day in most cases (n = 8). Six patients had the accompaniment of nausea with or without vomiting, and two patients had the accompaniment of ipsilateral dizziness. The attacks could be either spontaneous (n = 10) or triggered by noise, depression and resting after physical activity (n = 1), or by stress and staying up late (n = 1). The frequency of attacks was variable. The patients had well response to flunarizine, sodium valproate and amitriptyline but not to carbamazepine or oxcarbazepine. LH is different from EF, trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs) and cranial neuralgia, but it had couple of features similar to that of migraine.
Conclusions
The clinical picture of LH might be a subtype of migraine, or represent a novel syndrome.
doi:10.1186/1129-2377-15-45
PMCID: PMC4078094  PMID: 24966056
Linear headache; Epicrania fugax; Migraine; Cranial neuralgia; Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias
4.  Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) with preserved refractory period: report of three cases 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2012;13(2):167-169.
Background
Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) and short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform attacks with cranial autonomic features (SUNA) are rare primary headache syndromes characterized by spontaneous or triggered attacks of unilateral, brief, multiple, orbitofrontal pain associated with ipsilateral autonomic features. SUNCT is considered as a subset of SUNA. In SUNA, there may be cranial autonomic symptoms other than conjunctival injection and lacrimation, or either of two is present. SUNCT/SUNA can be triggered immediately after or at the decrescendo phase of the ongoing attack without any intervening refractory period. Refractory period is usually present in trigeminal neuralgia. Absent refractory period is thought to reliably differentiate SUNCT/SUNA from trigeminal neuralgia and has been proposed for inclusion into the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD) diagnostic criteria for SUNCT.
Case reports
We report three patients of SUNCT syndrome with preserved intervening refractory period of variable duration observed at different times.
Discussion
Trigeminal neuralgias with autonomic features, SUNA and SUNCT share a common pathophysiological mechanism and actually represent a continuum. It is well known that patient with trigeminal neuralgia may transform into SUNCT/SUNA. Similarly, being a continuum, the presence or the absence of refractory period and its duration may change in a patient with SUNCT/SUNA at different time points.
Conclusion
The presence of refractory period should not exclude the diagnosis of SUNCT in a patient with other clinical features suggestive of SUNCT.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0412-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0412-7
PMCID: PMC3274582  PMID: 22227716
Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT); Refractory period; Trigeminal neuralgia with autonomic features; Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform attacks with cranial autonomic features (SUNA)
5.  Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) with preserved refractory period: report of three cases 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2012;13(2):167-169.
Background
Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) and short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform attacks with cranial autonomic features (SUNA) are rare primary headache syndromes characterized by spontaneous or triggered attacks of unilateral, brief, multiple, orbitofrontal pain associated with ipsilateral autonomic features. SUNCT is considered as a subset of SUNA. In SUNA, there may be cranial autonomic symptoms other than conjunctival injection and lacrimation, or either of two is present. SUNCT/SUNA can be triggered immediately after or at the decrescendo phase of the ongoing attack without any intervening refractory period. Refractory period is usually present in trigeminal neuralgia. Absent refractory period is thought to reliably differentiate SUNCT/SUNA from trigeminal neuralgia and has been proposed for inclusion into the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD) diagnostic criteria for SUNCT.
Case reports
We report three patients of SUNCT syndrome with preserved intervening refractory period of variable duration observed at different times.
Discussion
Trigeminal neuralgias with autonomic features, SUNA and SUNCT share a common pathophysiological mechanism and actually represent a continuum. It is well known that patient with trigeminal neuralgia may transform into SUNCT/SUNA. Similarly, being a continuum, the presence or the absence of refractory period and its duration may change in a patient with SUNCT/SUNA at different time points.
Conclusion
The presence of refractory period should not exclude the diagnosis of SUNCT in a patient with other clinical features suggestive of SUNCT.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0412-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0412-7
PMCID: PMC3274582  PMID: 22227716
Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT); Refractory period; Trigeminal neuralgia with autonomic features; Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform attacks with cranial autonomic features (SUNA)
6.  Different forms of trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias in the same patient: description of a case 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2010;11(3):281-284.
The trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs), including cluster headache, paroxysmal hemicrania and SUNCT, are characterized by the cardinal combination of short-lasting unilateral pain and autonomic phenomena affecting the head. Hemicrania continua (HC) shares many clinical characteristics with TACs, including unilateral pain and ipsilateral autonomic features. Nevertheless, HC is separately classified in the revised International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD-II). Here, we describe the case of a 45-year-old man presenting an unusual concurrence of different forms of primary headaches associated with autonomic signs, including subsequently ipsilateral cluster headache, SUNCT and HC. This report supports the theory that common mechanisms could be involved in pathophysiology of different primary headache syndromes.
doi:10.1007/s10194-010-0210-7
PMCID: PMC3451915  PMID: 20376519
Hemicrania continua; Cluster headache; SUNCT; TACs
7.  Neuroimaging in cluster headache and other trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias 
The central nervous system mechanisms involved in trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias, a group of primary headaches characterized by strictly unilateral head pain that occurs in association with ipsilateral craniofacial autonomic features, are still not comprehensively understood. However, functional imaging methods have revolutionized our understanding of mechanisms involved in these primary headache syndromes. The present review provides a brief overview of the major modern functional neuroimaging techniques used to examine brain structure, biochemistry, metabolic state, and functional capacity. The available functional neuroimaging data in cluster headache and other TACs will thus be summarized. Although the precise brain structures responsible for these primary headache syndromes still remain to be determined, neuroimaging data suggest a major role for posterior hypothalamus activation in initiating and maintaining attacks. Furthermore, pathophysiological involvement of the pain neuromatrix and of the central descending opiatergic pain control system was observed. Given the rapid advances in functional and structural neuroimaging methodologies, it can be expected that these non-invasive techniques will continue to improve our understanding into the nature of the brain dysfunction in cluster headache and other trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias.
doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0403-8
PMCID: PMC3253152  PMID: 22116532
Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias; Hypothalamus; Pain neuromatrix; Single photon emission computed tomography; Positron emission tomography; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Functional MRI; Voxel-based morphometry
8.  Neuroimaging in cluster headache and other trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias 
The central nervous system mechanisms involved in trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias, a group of primary headaches characterized by strictly unilateral head pain that occurs in association with ipsilateral craniofacial autonomic features, are still not comprehensively understood. However, functional imaging methods have revolutionized our understanding of mechanisms involved in these primary headache syndromes. The present review provides a brief overview of the major modern functional neuroimaging techniques used to examine brain structure, biochemistry, metabolic state, and functional capacity. The available functional neuroimaging data in cluster headache and other TACs will thus be summarized. Although the precise brain structures responsible for these primary headache syndromes still remain to be determined, neuroimaging data suggest a major role for posterior hypothalamus activation in initiating and maintaining attacks. Furthermore, pathophysiological involvement of the pain neuromatrix and of the central descending opiatergic pain control system was observed. Given the rapid advances in functional and structural neuroimaging methodologies, it can be expected that these non-invasive techniques will continue to improve our understanding into the nature of the brain dysfunction in cluster headache and other trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias.
doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0403-8
PMCID: PMC3253152  PMID: 22116532
Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias; Hypothalamus; Pain neuromatrix; Single photon emission computed tomography; Positron emission tomography; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Functional MRI; Voxel-based morphometry
9.  Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with cranial autonomic symptoms (SUNA) secondary to epidermoid cyst in the right cerebellopontine angle successfully treated with surgery 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2011;12-12(3):385-387.
Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) syndrome is a rare headache syndrome classified among the trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias. It is usually idiopathic, although infrequent secondary forms have been described. Recently, the term short-lasting unilateral headache with cranial autonomic symptoms (SUNA) has been defined by the International Headache Society (ICHD-2) as similar to SUNCT with less prominent absent conjunctival injection and lacrimation. We report a patient with paroxysmal orbito-temporal pains, phenotypically suggesting SUNA, secondary to epidermoid cyst in the cerebellopontine angle which disappeared after tumor resection. Neuroimaging should be considered in all patients with SUNA, notably in those with atypical presentation as our patient who presented on examination trigeminal hypoesthesia and tinnitus. Realization of a brain MRI would rule out injuries that causes this type of syndrome.
doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0326-4
PMCID: PMC3094668  PMID: 21409598
SUNA; Epidermoid cyst; Cerebellopontine angle; Surgery; Treatment
10.  Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with cranial autonomic symptoms (SUNA) secondary to epidermoid cyst in the right cerebellopontine angle successfully treated with surgery 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2011;12(3):385-387.
Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) syndrome is a rare headache syndrome classified among the trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias. It is usually idiopathic, although infrequent secondary forms have been described. Recently, the term short-lasting unilateral headache with cranial autonomic symptoms (SUNA) has been defined by the International Headache Society (ICHD-2) as similar to SUNCT with less prominent absent conjunctival injection and lacrimation. We report a patient with paroxysmal orbito-temporal pains, phenotypically suggesting SUNA, secondary to epidermoid cyst in the cerebellopontine angle which disappeared after tumor resection. Neuroimaging should be considered in all patients with SUNA, notably in those with atypical presentation as our patient who presented on examination trigeminal hypoesthesia and tinnitus. Realization of a brain MRI would rule out injuries that causes this type of syndrome.
doi:10.1007/s10194-011-0326-4
PMCID: PMC3094668  PMID: 21409598
SUNA; Epidermoid cyst; Cerebellopontine angle; Surgery; Treatment
11.  Paroxysmal hemicrania responding to topiramate 
BMJ Case Reports  2009;2009:bcr06.2009.2007.
Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania (CPH) is a rare primary headache syndrome, which is classified along with cluster headache and short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) as a trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia. CPH is exquisitely responsive to indomethacin, so much so that the response is one of the current diagnostic criteria. The case of a patient with CPH, who had marked epigastric symptoms with indomethacin treatment and responded well to topiramate 150 mg daily, is reported. Cessation of topiramate caused return of episodes, and the response has persisted for 2 years. Topiramate may be a treatment option in CPH.
doi:10.1136/bcr.06.2009.2007
PMCID: PMC3027924  PMID: 21734918
12.  Paroxysmal hemicrania responding to topiramate 
Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania (CPH) is a rare primary headache syndrome, which is classified along with cluster headache and short‐lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) as a trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia. CPH is exquisitely responsive to indomethacin so much so that the response is one of the current diagnostic criteria. The case of a patient with CPH, who had marked epigastric symptoms with indomethacin treatment and responded well to topiramate 150 mg daily, is reported. Cessation of topiramate caused return of episodes, and the response has persisted for 2 years. Topiramate may be a treatment option in CPH.
doi:10.1136/jnnp.2006.096651
PMCID: PMC2117807  PMID: 17172571
13.  A case of short–lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT). Discussion of clinical features and differential diagnosis 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2005;6(6):469-470.
Chronic short–lasting headaches, in which trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs) are included, are relatively rare syndromes and not always well recognised. We present a case highly suggestive of short–lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) and we try to affirm essential points to distinguish the diagnosis from other TACs and chronic short–lasting headaches. We conclude that the qualifying points for differential diagnosis are number and duration of attacks in a day, presence of autonomic features and lack of indomethacin effect.
doi:10.1007/s10194-005-0261-3
PMCID: PMC3452302  PMID: 16388343
SUNCT; TACs
14.  Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias: Beyond the Conventional Treatments 
The trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias include cluster headache, paroxysmal hemicrania, short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks, and hemicrania continua. While the majority responds to conventional pharmacological treatments, a small but significant proportion of patients are intractable to these treatments. In these cases, alternative choices for these patients include oral and injectable drugs, lesional or resectional surgery, and neurostimulation. The evidence base for conventional treatments is limited, and the evidence for those used beyond convention is more so. At present, the most evidence exists for nerve blocks, deep brain stimulation, occipital nerve stimulation, sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation in chronic cluster headache, and microvascular decompression of the trigeminal nerve in short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks.
doi:10.1007/s11916-014-0438-z
PMCID: PMC4119587  PMID: 24974071
Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias; Neurostimulation; Nerve blocks; Sphenopalatine ganglion stimulation; Occipital nerve stimulation; Deep brain stimulation
15.  An unusual form of TAC–TAC sine autonomic phenomena 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2008;9(5):331-332.
The trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs) are characterized by the cardinal combination of short-lasting unilateral pain and autonomic phenomena affecting the head, including cluster headache, paroxysmal hemicrania and SUNCT. Infrequently reported have been cases with dissociation of these two cardinal features- usually with autonomic phenomena without pain, rather than the reverse. Herein is described the case of a 56-year-old man presenting with an unusual form of TAC resembling chronic paroxysmal hemicrania but with a lower frequency of occurrence, with temporal features not typical of previously described TACs, and consisting of severe unilateral head pain without any autonomic symptoms or signs, absolutely responsive to indomethacin
doi:10.1007/s10194-008-0060-8
PMCID: PMC3452201  PMID: 18685807
Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia; Paroxysmal hemicrania; Dissociation; Trigeminal-autonomic reflex
16.  The differential diagnosis of chronic daily headaches: an algorithm-based approach 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2007;8(5):263-272.
Chronic daily headaches (CDHs) refers to primary headaches that happen on at least 15 days per month, for 4 or more hours per day, for at least three consecutive months. The differential diagnosis of CDHs is challenging and should proceed in an orderly fashion. The approach begins with a search for “red flags” that suggest the possibility of a secondary headache. If secondary headaches that mimic CDHs are excluded, either on clinical grounds or through investigation, the next step is to classify the headaches based on the duration of attacks. If the attacks last less than 4 hours per day, a trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TAC) is likely. TACs include episodic and chronic cluster headache, episodic and chronic paroxysmal hemicrania, SUNCT, and hypnic headache. If the duration is ≥4 h, a CDH is likely and the differential diagnosis encompasses chronic migraine, chronic tension-type headache, new daily persistent headache and hemicrania continua. The clinical approach to diagnosing CDH is the scope of this review.
doi:10.1007/s10194-007-0418-3
PMCID: PMC2793374  PMID: 17955166
Chronic daily headache; Differential diagnosis; Strategy
17.  The differential diagnosis of chronic daily headaches: an algorithm-based approach 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2007;8(5):263-272.
Chronic daily headaches (CDHs) refers to primary headaches that happen on at least 15 days per month, for 4 or more hours per day, for at least three consecutive months. The differential diagnosis of CDHs is challenging and should proceed in an orderly fashion. The approach begins with a search for “red flags” that suggest the possibility of a secondary headache. If secondary headaches that mimic CDHs are excluded, either on clinical grounds or through investigation, the next step is to classify the headaches based on the duration of attacks. If the attacks last less than 4 hours per day, a trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TAC) is likely. TACs include episodic and chronic cluster headache, episodic and chronic paroxysmal hemicrania, SUNCT, and hypnic headache. If the duration is ≥4 h, a CDH is likely and the differential diagnosis encompasses chronic migraine, chronic tension-type headache, new daily persistent headache and hemicrania continua. The clinical approach to diagnosing CDH is the scope of this review.
doi:10.1007/s10194-007-0418-3
PMCID: PMC2793374  PMID: 17955166
Chronic daily headache; Differential diagnosis; Strategy
18.  Neuroimaging for the Evaluation of Chronic Headaches 
Executive Summary
Objective
The objectives of this evidence based review are:
i) To determine the effectiveness of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in the evaluation of persons with a chronic headache and a normal neurological examination.
ii) To determine the comparative effectiveness of CT and MRI scans for detecting significant intracranial abnormalities in persons with chronic headache and a normal neurological exam.
iii) To determine the budget impact of CT and MRI scans for persons with a chronic headache and a normal neurological exam.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Headaches disorders are generally classified as either primary or secondary with further sub-classifications into specific headache types. Primary headaches are those not caused by a disease or medical condition and include i) tension-type headache, ii) migraine, iii) cluster headache and, iv) other primary headaches, such as hemicrania continua and new daily persistent headache. Secondary headaches include those headaches caused by an underlying medical condition. While primary headaches disorders are far more frequent than secondary headache disorders, there is an urge to carry out neuroimaging studies (CT and/or MRI scans) out of fear of missing uncommon secondary causes and often to relieve patient anxiety.
Tension type headaches are the most common primary headache disorder and migraines are the most common severe primary headache disorder. Cluster headaches are a type of trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia and are less common than migraines and tension type headaches. Chronic headaches are defined as headaches present for at least 3 months and lasting greater than or equal to 15 days per month. The International Classification of Headache Disorders states that for most secondary headaches the characteristics of the headache are poorly described in the literature and for those headache disorders where it is well described there are few diagnostically important features.
The global prevalence of headache in general in the adult population is estimated at 46%, for tension-type headache it is 42% and 11% for migraine headache. The estimated prevalence of cluster headaches is 0.1% or 1 in 1000 persons. The prevalence of chronic daily headache is estimated at 3%.
Neuroimaging
Computed Tomography
Computed tomography (CT) is a medical imaging technique used to aid diagnosis and to guide interventional and therapeutic procedures. It allows rapid acquisition of high-resolution three-dimensional images, providing radiologists and other physicians with cross-sectional views of a person’s anatomy. CT scanning poses risk of radiation exposure. The radiation exposure from a conventional CT scanner may emit effective doses of 2-4mSv for a typical head CT.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique used to aid diagnosis but unlike CT it does not use ionizing radiation. Instead, it uses a strong magnetic field to image a person’s anatomy. Compared to CT, MRI can provide increased contrast between the soft tissues of the body. Because of the persistent magnetic field, extra care is required in the magnetic resonance environment to ensure that injury or harm does not come to any personnel while in the environment.
Research Questions
What is the effectiveness of CT and MRI scanning in the evaluation of persons with a chronic headache and a normal neurological examination?
What is the comparative effectiveness of CT and MRI scanning for detecting significant intracranial abnormality in persons with chronic headache and a normal neurological exam?
What is the budget impact of CT and MRI scans for persons with a chronic headache and a normal neurological exam.
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on February 18, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January, 2005 to February, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with an unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist and then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established.
Inclusion Criteria
Systematic reviews, randomized controlled trials, observational studies
Outpatient adult population with chronic headache and normal neurological exam
Studies reporting likelihood ratio of clinical variables for a significant intracranial abnormality
English language studies
2005-present
Exclusion Criteria
Studies which report outcomes for persons with seizures, focal symptoms, recent/new onset headache, change in presentation, thunderclap headache, and headache due to trauma
Persons with abnormal neurological examination
Case reports
Outcomes of Interest
Primary Outcome
Probability for intracranial abnormality
Secondary Outcome
Patient relief from anxiety
System service use
System costs
Detection rates for significant abnormalities in MRI and CT scans
Summary of Findings
Effectiveness
One systematic review, 1 small RCT, and 1 observational study met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The systematic review completed by Detsky, et al. reported the likelihood ratios of specific clinical variables to predict significant intracranial abnormalities. The RCT completed by Howard et al., evaluated whether neuroimaging persons with chronic headache increased or reduced patient anxiety. The prospective observational study by Sempere et al., provided evidence for the pre-test probability of intracranial abnormalities in persons with chronic headache as well as minimal data on the comparative effectiveness of CT and MRI to detect intracranial abnormalities.
Outcome 1: Pre-test Probability.
The pre-test probability is usually related to the prevalence of the disease and can be adjusted depending on the characteristics of the population. The study by Sempere et al. determined the pre-test probability (prevalence) of significant intracranial abnormalities in persons with chronic headaches defined as headache experienced for at least a 4 week duration with a normal neurological exam. There is a pre-test probability of 0.9% (95% CI 0.5, 1.4) in persons with chronic headache and normal neurological exam. The highest pre-test probability of 5 found in persons with cluster headaches. The second highest, that of 3.7, was reported in persons with indeterminate type headache. There was a 0.75% rate of incidental findings.
Likelihood ratios for detecting a significant abnormality
Clinical findings from the history and physical may be used as screening test to predict abnormalities on neuroimaging. The extent to which the clinical variable may be a good predictive variable can be captured by reporting its likelihood ratio. The likelihood ratio provides an estimate of how much a test result will change the odds of having a disease or condition. The positive likelihood ratio (LR+) tells you how much the odds of having the disease increases when a test is positive. The negative likelihood ratio (LR-) tells you how much the odds of having the disease decreases when the test is negative.
Detsky et al., determined the likelihood ratio for specific clinical variable from 11 studies. There were 4 clinical variables with both statistically significant positive and negative likelihood ratios. These included: abnormal neurological exam (LR+ 5.3, LR- 0.72), undefined headache (LR+ 3.8, LR- 0.66), headache aggravated by exertion or valsalva (LR+ 2.3, LR- 0.70), and headache with vomiting (LR+ 1.8, and LR- 0.47). There were two clinical variables with a statistically significant positive likelihood ratio and non significant negative likelihood ratio. These included: cluster-type headache (LR+ 11, LR- 0.95), and headache with aura (LR+ 12.9, LR- 0.52). Finally, there were 8 clinical variables with both statistically non significant positive and negative likelihood ratios. These included: headache with focal symptoms, new onset headache, quick onset headache, worsening headache, male gender, headache with nausea, increased headache severity, and migraine type headache.
Outcome 2: Relief from Anxiety
Howard et al. completed an RCT of 150 persons to determine if neuroimaging for headaches was anxiolytic or anxiogenic. Persons were randomized to receiving either an MRI scan or no scan for investigation of their headache. The study population was stratified into those persons with a Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HADS) > 11 (the high anxiety and depression group) and those < 11 (the low anxiety and depression) so that there were 4 groups:
Group 1: High anxiety and depression, no scan group
Group 2: High anxiety and depression, scan group
Group 3: Low anxiety and depression, no scan group
Group 4: Low anxiety and depression, scan group
Anxiety
There was no evidence for any overall reduction in anxiety at 1 year as measured by a visual analogue scale of ‘level of worry’ when analysed by whether the person received a scan or not. Similarly, there was no interaction between anxiety and depression status and whether a scan was offered or not on patient anxiety. Anxiety did not decrease at 1 year to any statistically significant degree in the high anxiety and depression group (HADS positive) compared with the low anxiety and depression group (HADS negative).
There are serious methodological limitations in this study design which may have contributed to these negative results. First, when considering the comparison of ‘scan’ vs. ‘no scan’ groups, 12 people (16%) in the ‘no scan group’ actually received a scan within the follow up year. If indeed scanning does reduce anxiety then this contamination of the ‘no scan’ group may have reduced the effect between the groups results resulting in a non significant difference in anxiety scores between the ‘scanned’ and the ‘no scan’ group. Second, there was an inadequate sample size at 1 year follow up in each of the 4 groups which may have contributed to a Type II statistical error (missing a difference when one may exist) when comparing scan vs. no scan by anxiety and depression status. Therefore, based on the results and study limitations it is inconclusive as to whether scanning reduces anxiety.
Outcome 3: System Services
Howard et al., considered services used and system costs a secondary outcome. These were determined by examining primary care case notes at 1 year for consultation rates, symptoms, further investigations, and contact with secondary and tertiary care.
System Services
The authors report that the use of neurologist and psychiatrist services was significantly higher for those persons not offered as scan, regardless of their anxiety and depression status (P<0.001 for neurologist, and P=0.033 for psychiatrist)
Outcome 4: System Costs
System Costs
There was evidence of statistically significantly lower system costs if persons with high levels of anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale score >11) were provided with a scan (P=0.03 including inpatient costs, and 0.047 excluding inpatient costs).
Comparative Effectiveness of CT and MRI Scans
One study reported the detection rate for significant intracranial abnormalities using CT and MRI. In a cohort of 1876 persons with a non acute headache defined as any type of headache that had begun at least 4 weeks before enrolment Sempere et al. reported that the detection rate was 19/1432 (1.3%) using CT and 4/444 (0.9%) using MRI. Of 119 normal CT scans 2 (1.7%) had significant intracranial abnormality on MRI. The 2 cases were a small meningioma, and an acoustic neurinoma.
Summary
The evidence presented can be summarized as follows:
Pre-test Probability
Based on the results by Sempere et al., there is a low pre-test probability for intracranial abnormalities in persons with chronic headaches and a normal neurological exam (defined as headaches experiences for a minimum of 4 weeks). The Grade quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low.
Likelihood Ratios
Based on the systematic review by Detsky et al., there is a statistically significant positive and negative likelihood ratio for the following clinical variables: abnormal neurological exam, undefined headache, headache aggravated by exertion or valsalva, headache with vomiting. Grade quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low.
Based on the systematic review by Detsky et al. there is a statistically significant positive likelihood ratio but non statistically significant negative likelihood ratio for the following clinical variables: cluster headache and headache with aura. The Grade quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low.
Based on the systematic review by Detsky et al., there is a non significant positive and negative likelihood ratio for the following clinical variables: headache with focal symptoms, new onset headache, quick onset headache, worsening headache, male gender, headache with nausea, increased headache severity, migraine type headache. The Grade quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low.
Relief from Anxiety
Based on the RCT by Howard et al., it is inconclusive whether neuroimaging scans in persons with a chronic headache are anxiolytic. The Grade quality of evidence supporting this outcome is low.
System Services
Based on the RCT by Howard et al. scanning persons with chronic headache regardless of their anxiety and/or depression level reduces service use. The Grade quality of evidence is low.
System Costs
Based on the RCT by Howard et al., scanning persons with a score greater than 11 on the High Anxiety and Depression Scale reduces system costs. The Grade quality of evidence is moderate.
Comparative Effectiveness of CT and MRI Scans
There is sparse evidence to determine the relative effectiveness of CT compared with MRI scanning for the detection of intracranial abnormalities. The Grade quality of evidence supporting this is very low.
Economic Analysis
Ontario Perspective
Volumes for neuroimaging of the head i.e. CT and MRI scans, from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) data set were used to investigate trends in the province for Fiscal Years (FY) 2004-2009.
Assumptions were made in order to investigate neuroimaging of the head for the indication of headache. From the literature, 27% of all CT and 13% of all MRI scans for the head were assumed to include an indication of headache. From that same retrospective chart review and personal communication with the author 16% of CT scans and 4% of MRI scans for the head were for the sole indication of headache. From the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) wait times data, 73% of all CT and 93% of all MRI scans in the province, irrespective of indication were outpatient procedures.
The expenditure for each FY reflects the volume for that year and since volumes have increased in the past 6 FYs, the expenditure has also increased with a pay-out reaching 3.0M and 2.8M for CT and MRI services of the head respectively for the indication of headache and a pay-out reaching 1.8M and 0.9M for CT and MRI services of the head respectively for the indication of headache only in FY 08/09.
Cost per Abnormal Finding
The yield of abnormal finding for a CT and MRI scan of the head for the indication of headache only is 2% and 5% respectively. Based on these yield a high-level estimate of the cost per abnormal finding with neuroimaging of the head for headache only can be calculated for each FY. In FY 08/09 there were 37,434 CT and 16,197 MRI scans of the head for headache only. These volumes would generate a yield of abnormal finding of 749 and 910 with a CT scan and MRI scan respectively. The expenditure for FY 08/09 was 1.8M and 0.9M for CT and MRI services respectively. Therefore the cost per abnormal finding would be $2,409 for CT and $957 for MRI. These cost per abnormal finding estimates were limited because they did not factor in comparators or the consequences associated with an abnormal reading or FNs. The estimates only consider the cost of the neuroimaging procedure and the yield of abnormal finding with the respective procedure.
PMCID: PMC3377587  PMID: 23074404
19.  Diagnostic and therapeutic errors in trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias and hemicrania continua: a systematic review 
Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs) and hemicrania continua (HC) are relatively rare but clinically rather well-defined primary headaches. Despite the existence of clear-cut diagnostic criteria (The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd edition - ICHD-II) and several therapeutic guidelines, errors in workup and treatment of these conditions are frequent in clinical practice. We set out to review all available published data on mismanagement of TACs and HC patients in order to understand and avoid its causes. The search strategy identified 22 published studies. The most frequent errors described in the management of patients with TACs and HC are: referral to wrong type of specialist, diagnostic delay, misdiagnosis, and the use of treatments without overt indication. Migraine with and without aura, trigeminal neuralgia, sinus infection, dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction are the disorders most frequently overdiagnosed. Even when the clinical picture is clear-cut, TACs and HC are frequently not recognized and/or mistaken for other disorders, not only by general physicians, dentists and ENT surgeons, but also by neurologists and headache specialists. This seems to be due to limited knowledge of the specific characteristics and variants of these disorders, and it results in the unnecessary prescription of ineffective and sometimes invasive treatments which may have negative consequences for patients. Greater knowledge of and education about these disorders, among both primary care physicians and headache specialists, might contribute to improving the quality of life of TACs and HC patients.
doi:10.1186/1129-2377-14-14
PMCID: PMC3620440  PMID: 23565739
Cluster headache; Paroxysmal hemicrania; SUNCT; Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias; Hemicrania continua; Error; Pitfall; Misdiagnosis; Mismanagement
20.  Paroxysmal hemicrania as the clinical presentation of giant cell arteritis 
Clinics and Practice  2011;1(4):e111.
Head pain is the most common complaint in patients with giant cell arteritis but the headache has no distinct diagnostic features. There have been no published reports of giant cell arteritis presenting as a trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia. We describe a patient who developed a new onset headache in her fifties, which fit the diagnostic criteria for paroxysmal hemicrania and was completely responsive to corticosteroids. Removal of the steroid therapy brought a reemergence of her headaches. Giant cell arteritis should be considered in the evaluation of secondary causes of paroxysmal hemicrania; in addition giant cell arteritis needs to be ruled out in patients who are over the age of 50 years with a new onset trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia.
doi:10.4081/cp.2011.e111
PMCID: PMC3981414  PMID: 24765352
giant cell arteritis; paroxysmal hemicrania; headache; indomethacin.
21.  Bilateral SUNCT-like headache in a patient with prolactinoma responsive to lamotrigine 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2009;10(6):469-472.
Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) syndrome is a rare trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia. The cases of SUNCT with attacks that affected both sides simultaneously have only rarely been reported and some of them had underlying pathology. We have reported a case of bilateral SUNCT-like headache secondary to a prolactinoma and responsive to lamotrigine treatment.
doi:10.1007/s10194-009-0146-y
PMCID: PMC3476218  PMID: 19763771
SUNCT syndrome; Prolactinoma; Lamotrigine
22.  Paroxysmal hemicrania: a retrospective study of a consecutive series of 22 patients and a critical analysis of the diagnostic criteria 
Background
Paroxysmal hemicrania (PH) is a probably underreported primary headache disorder. It is characterized by repeated attacks of severe, strictly unilateral pain lasting 2 to 30 minutes localized to orbital, supraorbital, and temporal areas accompanied by ipsilateral autonomic features. The hallmark of PH is the absolute cessation of the headache with indomethacin. However, these all features may not be present in all cases and a few cases may remain unclassified according to the 2nd Edition of The International classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD-II) criteria for PH.
Methods
Twenty-two patients were included in this retrospective observation.
Results
We describe 17 patients, observed over six years, who fulfilled the ICHD-II criteria for PH. In parallel, we identified five more patients in whom one of the features of the diagnostic criteria for PH was missing. Two patients did not show any evidence of cranial autonomic feature during the attacks of headache. Another two patients did not fulfill the criteria for PH as the maximum attack frequency was less than five. One patient had an incomplete response to indomethacin.
Conclusion
A subset of patients may not have all the defined features of PH and there is a need for refinement of the existing diagnostic criteria.
doi:10.1186/1129-2377-14-26
PMCID: PMC3620407  PMID: 23566235
Chronic daily headache; Paroxysmal hemicrania; Hemicrania continua; Cluster headache
23.  The red ear syndrome 
Red Ear Syndrome (RES) is a very rare disorder, with approximately 100 published cases in the medical literature. Red ear (RE) episodes are characterised by unilateral or bilateral attacks of paroxysmal burning sensations and reddening of the external ear. The duration of these episodes ranges from a few seconds to several hours. The attacks occur with a frequency ranging from several a day to a few per year. Episodes can occur spontaneously or be triggered, most frequently by rubbing or touching the ear, heat or cold, chewing, brushing of the hair, neck movements or exertion. Early-onset idiopathic RES seems to be associated with migraine, whereas late-onset idiopathic forms have been reported in association with trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs). Secondary forms of RES occur with upper cervical spine disorders or temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction. RES is regarded refractory to medical treatments, although some migraine preventative treatments have shown moderate benefit mainly in patients with migraine-related attacks. The pathophysiology of RES is still unclear but several hypotheses involving peripheral or central nervous system mechanisms have been proposed.
doi:10.1186/1129-2377-14-83
PMCID: PMC3850925  PMID: 24093332
Red ear syndrome; Migraine; Trigemino-autonomic reflex; Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias; Parasympathetic system; Erythromelalgia
24.  A case of early-onset and monophasic trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia: could it be a SUNCT? 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2010;11(4):363-365.
A 2-year-old female came to the Neurological Emergency Room of “Giovanni XXIII” Hospital in Bari, 6 h after the onset of severe facial pain, which occurred soon after awakening. Stabbing pain affected the right frontal and periorbital area, with ipsilateral conjunctival injection, swelling of the eyelids and tearing. Except the duration, from 5 to 30 s., the attacks were stereotyped including the occurrence and features of autonomic signs. Based on the typical clinical findings and the normal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we diagnosed short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing syndrome (SUNCT). The spontaneous remission within a few hours made prophylactic therapy unnecessary. At the last follow-up, after 3 months, the patient was still symptom free. In our case, after an active period lasting 2 days the disease disappeared completely. However the typical features of the disease (unilateral pain, short duration and high frequency of the attacks, autonomic signs ipsilateral to pain, numbers of attacks) were all present. While the diagnostic criteria of the International Headache Society classification for SUNCT did not include the duration of disease, it is likely that the active period lasting 2 days could be an expression of the clinical variability of the disease.
doi:10.1007/s10194-010-0219-y
PMCID: PMC3476350  PMID: 20473543
25.  The rare, unilateral headaches. Vågå study of headache epidemiology 
In the Vågå study of headache epidemiology, 1838 parishioners in the age group 18–65 years were included (88.6% of the relevant population). Each individual was questioned in a face-to-face situation. In this population, a search of rare unilateral headaches was also made, in spite of their presumed rarity. Trigeminal neuralgia was present in two cases. Two individuals with SUNCT traits were observed. Hemicrania continua may have been present in one individual. Also observed were: optic neuritis (n=1), herpes zoster (n=4); a case of unilateral headache upon neck rotation (chronic paroxysmal hemicrania variant? or "forme fruste" of the neck–tongue syndrome?); masseter muscle spasm (n=1); temporo-mandibular joint dislocation (n=1); and possible carotidynia (n=3). A particularly intriguing form of headache was a unilateral, neuralgiform (?) pain, associated with ipsilateral, regular jabs and allodynia, a combination observed in eight females. A couple of conditions that entirely defy rubrication are also reported.
doi:10.1007/s10194-006-0292-4
PMCID: PMC3476116  PMID: 17221345
Headache; Herpes zoster; Trigeminal neuralgia; CPH; SUNCT syndrome

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