Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Plasma levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide in chronic tension-type headache.

Neurology 2000 November 15
BACKGROUND: Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is involved in the pathophysiology of migraine and cluster headache. Whether CGRP has any role in chronic tension-type headache is unknown.

OBJECTIVES: To compare interictal plasma levels of CGRP between patients with chronic tension-type headache and healthy control subjects, to investigate plasma CGRP in relation to headache state, and to compare plasma CGRP between the peripheral and the cranial circulation.

METHODS: Blood from the antecubital vein was drawn from 30 patients with chronic tension-type headache and 34 healthy control subjects. In addition, blood samples from the consecutive first 15 patients and from the consecutive first 20 healthy control subjects were also collected from the external jugular vein.

RESULTS: CGRP levels measured in the peripheral circulation in patients on days without headache, 63+/-5 pmol/L, tended to be higher than CGRP levels in control subjects, 53+/-3 pmol/L (p = 0.06). In patients, no differences were found between CGRP levels assessed ictally and interictally in either the cranial (p = 0.91) or the peripheral (p = 0.62) circulation. Plasma CGRP level was higher in the external jugular vein than in the antecubital vein on days without headache (p = 0.03) but not on days with headache (p = 0.82). In control subjects, CGRP levels in the cranial circulation did not differ from CGRP levels in the peripheral circulation (p = 0.92). Exploratory analyses showed that 8 patients whose usual headache quality was throbbing had a higher interictal plasma CGRP level than control subjects (p = 0.002), whereas plasma CGRP level was normal in 22 patients with pressing headaches (p = 0.36).

CONCLUSIONS: Plasma levels of CGRP are normal in patients with chronic tension-type headache and are unrelated to headache state. Interictal plasma CGRP was increased in patients with a pulsating pain quality. Because the authors have previously shown a similar increase of interictal CGRP levels in migraine, this study suggests that headaches with symptoms that fulfill International Headache Society criteria for tension-type headache may be pathophysiologically related to migraine, if the headache has a pulsating quality.

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