Chapter 51: Headache
Approach to the patient: Headache
Among the most common reasons that pts seek medical attention; can be either primary or secondary (Table 51-1). First step—distinguish serious from benign etiologies. Symptoms that raise suspicion for a serious cause are listed in Table 51-2. Intensity of head pain rarely has diagnostic value; most pts who present with worst headache of their lives have migraine. Headache location can suggest involvement of local structures (temporal pain in giant cell arteritis, facial pain in sinusitis). Ruptured aneurysm (instant onset), cluster headache (peak over 3–5 min), and migraine (pain increases over minutes to hours) differ in time to peak intensity. Provocation by environmental factors suggests a benign cause.
Complete neurologic examination is important in evaluation of headache. If examination is abnormal or if serious underlying cause is suspected, an imaging study (CT or MRI) is indicated as a first step. Lumbar puncture (LP) is required when meningitis (stiff neck, fever) or subarachnoid hemorrhage (following negative imaging) is a possibility. The psychological state of the pt should also be evaluated because a relationship exists between pain and depression.
|PRIMARY HEADACHE||SECONDARY HEADACHE|
|Idiopathic stabbing||2||Vascular disorders||1|
|First severe headache|
|“Worst” headache ever|
|Vomiting that precedes headache|
|Subacute worsening over days or weeks|
|Pain induced by bending, lifting, cough|
|Pain that disturbs sleep or presents immediately upon awakening|
|Known systemic illness|
|Onset after age 55|
|Fever or unexplained systemic signs|
|Abnormal neurologic examination|
|Pain associated with local tenderness, e.g., region of temporal artery|
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