Headache caused by an intracranial aneurysm in a 32-year-old woman

Susan M Larkin-Thier, Anna B Livdans-Forret, Phyllis J Harvey
Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2007, 30 (2): 140-3

OBJECTIVES: We describe the case of a woman with a headache later found to be a result of an intracranial aneurysm. Through this article, we aim to raise awareness regarding the red flags that should lead doctors of chiropractic to suspect the presence of this condition to facilitate appropriate patient management that increases the likelihood of patients' recovery.

CLINICAL PRESENTATION: A 32-year-old woman sought care for a constant headache of 4 days' duration. She described the headache as severe throughout her entire head, centralized at the base of the occiput, and unlike any headache she had experienced. She had concomitant neck pain. Her left eye deviated toward the midline and had excessive tearing 12 hours after the onset of the headache.

INTERVENTION AND OUTCOME: No chiropractic adjustment was administered; immediate transfer for emergency treatment was arranged instead. The diagnosis of a bleeding intracranial aneurysm was confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging. The patient was transferred to a local university hospital for surgical intervention. Unfortunately, she died of vasospastic complications.

CONCLUSIONS: The red flags to be considered in evaluating patients with such headache as that described for our case patient include a history of hypertension, cigarette smoking, oral contraceptive use, alcohol consumption, pregnancy, and cocaine use. Practitioners need to be aware of the signs and symptoms that indicate whether a headache may be a result of serious problems such as an aneurysm.

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