Post-traumatic Headaches Persist Five Years After Traumatic Brain Injury


Study shows high prevalence of painful headaches continue years after a traumatic brain injury

SAN DIEGO, CA (June 9, 2016) – While headache is the most frequently reported symptom following a traumatic brain injury, it can continue to impact patients five years after the injury occurred, according to a new study presented this week at the 58th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society.

The study, titled “Posttraumatic Headache Five Years after Traumatic Brain Injury”, followed more than 300 individuals admitted to inpatient rehabilitation with mostly moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries and recorded their symptoms three, six, twelve and sixty months post injury. Prior headache history, headache prevalence, frequency, classification, pain rating and impact of new or worse headaches as compared to pre-injury were examined over the course of five years.

The study results showed a high prevalence of new or worse headaches compared to pre-injury headaches for this group of patients. In fact, at least a third of those individuals with a traumatic brain injury had new or worse headaches at each time point assessed. Only 17% of the patients had experienced headaches prior to their injury.

Over the course of five years, more than half of the headaches could be classified as migraine or probable migraine and over a third of patients had several headaches a week or daily headaches. Headache pain remained high over time with average pain rated between 5.6 and 6.4 based on a 0-10 scale.

“Headaches after traumatic brain injury should not be written off. This study sheds light on education needed among primary care providers and other practitioners caring for those suffering from traumatic brain injury” says Sylvia Lucas, M.D., Ph.D., clinical professor at the University of Washington Medical Center and lead author of the study. “The frequency, intensity and impact on daily functioning should be recorded to better treat headaches. Suffering from intense headaches after an injury shouldn’t be the only option.”

The study was presented at the 58th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society in San Diego. The meeting draws about 1,000 headache and migraine researchers and treatment specialists from around the world to hear the latest scientific and clinical information on headache and migraine. This year’s program, “Take a Closer Look…At Migraine,” is four days of scientific presentations on the latest and most up-to date research in all aspects of migraine and related disorders.

The American Headache Society (AHS) is a professional society of health care providers dedicated to the study and treatment of headache and face pain. The Society’s objectives are to promote the exchange of information and ideas concerning the causes and treatments of headache and related painful disorders. Educating physicians, health professionals and the public and encouraging scientific research are the primary functions of this organization. AHS activities include an annual scientific meeting, a comprehensive headache symposium, regional symposia for neurologists and family practice physicians, and publication of the journal Headache. (www.americanheadachesociety.org)

The American Migraine Foundation is a non-profit foundation supported by the American Headache Society and generous donors dedicated to the advancement of migraine research. Its mission is to support innovative research and education that will lead to improvement in the lives of those who suffer from migraine and other disabling headaches. Information about migraine and related disorders can be found at www.americanmigrainefoundation.org

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