Cerebral MRI and EEG studies in the initial management of pediatric headaches

Daniel Martens, Isabel Oster, Sven Gottschlling, Panagiotis Papanagiotou, Karin Ziegler, Regina Eymann, Mei-Fang Ong, Ludwig Gortner, Sascha Meyer
Swiss Medical Weekly 2012, 142: w13625

BACKGROUND AND STUDY PURPOSE: High resolution imaging modalities and electroencephalographic studies (EEG) are used in the assessment of children with headaches. We evaluated the role of cerebral MRI (cMRI) and EEG in the initial assessment of children with headache as the chief complaint of initial presentation.

METHODS: A retrospective chart analysis was performed at a tertiary University Hospital.

RESULTS: 209 patients were included in this study [mean age 11.3 years; male 91 (43.5%); female 118 (56.5%)]. The following types of headaches were seen: Unclassified headache: 23.4%; probable migraine 17.2%, migraine without aura 13.4%, complicated migraine 12.4%, migraine with aura 1.0%; tension-type 15.3%, and cluster headaches 0.5%, and secondary headaches 16.7%. In 93 children (44.5%) abnormal physical/neurological findings were noted (multiple entries possible). On cMRI studies the following findings were seen: Infection of sinuses (7.2%), pineal cysts (2.4%), arachnoidial cyst and Chiari malformation (1.9%), unspecified signal enhancement (1.0%), and pituitary enlargement, inflammatory lesion, angioma, cerebral ischaemia, and intra-cerebral cyst (each 0.5%). Electroencephalographic findings included both focal and generalised abnormal slowing (5.3%) and Spike-wave complexes (3.3%).

CONCLUSIONS: Despite abnormal findings on neurological/physical examination in a substantial number of children with headaches, the yield of pathological cMRIs was low. The use of EEG recordings was not contributory to the diagnostic and therapeutic approach. More research is needed to better define those patients who are likely to have an intracranial pathology.

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