A non-traumatic, rapid-onset headache that is as dangerous as subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) seen in the emergency department

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A 36yo male with multiple non-traumatic, rapid-onset headaches had Emergency Department visits on days 3 and 10 after onset of symptoms. He is a social smoker and drinker. CT head imaging was negative. An MRI/MRA was obtained. The image represents multiple foci of vasoconstriction and dilation in medium and large cerebral vessels consistent with Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome (RCVS). Multiple rapid-onset headaches and “string of beads” on MRA imaging are pathognomonic for RCVS, which has a 4:1 female to male ratio. Manifestations include the pure cephalic form, characterized by a headache; subarachnoid hemorrhage and cerebral infarction have also been reported. Vasoactive drugs and the post-partum period are recognized as common inciting events. Symptoms usually resolve in 3-6 months. Treatment with nimodipine, 1-2mg/kg/hr IV and/or 30-60mg PO QID orally over 4-8 weeks, has been reported to be effective.

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