Headache in Stroke

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Background and Purpose

The etiology of headache in stroke is not known, and its relation to migraine and tension-type headache is unclear. The aim of our study was to investigate and classify headache appearing in stroke patients prospectively, using the new headache classification as determined by the Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society (1988).


Two hundred eighty consecutively admitted patients aged younger than 81 years with acute stroke were examined and questioned about headache and prior headache complaints; 238 (85%) were able to communicate.


Sixty-five (27%) of the 238 patients experienced headache from 3 days before to 3 days after stroke. Headache occurred in 50% of patients with intracerebral hemorrhage, in 26% with infarction, and in 15% of patients with lacunar infarction. Headache was more common when stroke occurred in posterior circulation than anterior circulation (P<.02). Fifty-six patients were able to give further information about headache characteristics. The headache in thromboembolic stroke was classified as tension-type headache (25 patients), migraine-like headache (14 patients), and other headache (12 patients). Migraine was more frequent in vertebrobasilar stroke. Headache was lateralized in 33% of cases. In patients with unilateral headache and unilateral stroke lesion, the headache was ipsilateral in 14 of 17 cases. In infarction, severity of headache showed no relation to lesion size or lesion localization. Patients with previous tension-type headache and migraine experienced reactivation of known headache equally often.


(1) Headache occurs in one fourth of patients with acute stroke. (2) Unilateral headache is usually ipsilateral to stroke lesion. (3) Headache severity is not related to size of ischemic stroke lesion. (Stroke. 1993;24:1621-1624.)

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