The value of brain imaging in children with headaches.

Abstract:

OBJECTIVE:To determine the value of performing computed tomography (CT) on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies in children with chronic headaches. BACKGROUND:Headache is a common complaint in children. With the proliferation of brain imaging centers and the increasing patient demand for CT or MRI studies, brain imaging has become widely used to evaluate headaches. METHODS:A retrospective chart review was conducted of all children referred to the pediatric neurology clinic for evaluation of headaches over a 2-year period. Charts were reviewed for headache characteristics, clinical indications for performing CT and MRI studies, and imaging results. Particular attention was paid to evidence of brain tumors, vascular anomalies, or hydrocephalus. RESULTS:A total of 133 records were studied. Subjects ranged in age from 3 to 18 years. Most patients were diagnosed as having either vascular migrainous headaches (52%) or chronic tension headaches (21%). Other headache diagnoses were mixed tension-migraine, psychogenic, and post-traumatic. Headaches were unclassified in 25 patients (19%). Seventy-eight patients (59%) had brain imaging: 45 had MRI, 27 had CT, and 6 patients had both. In most cases, brain imaging studies were performed in patients with atypical headache pattern, presence of neurologic abnormalities during the headache, general symptoms (ie, weight loss or fatigue), or because of parents' or doctors' concerns about brain tumors. Cerebral abnormalities were found on brain imaging in four patients, but none indicated the presence of a treatable disease and all were deemed unrelated to the presenting complaint. Our findings of no relevant abnormalities in a series of 78 brain imaging studies indicate that the maximal rate at which such abnormalities might appear in this population is 3.8%. CONCLUSIONS:These results indicate that brain imaging studies have very limited value in evaluating headaches in pediatric patients without clinical evidence of an underlying structural lesion.

journal_name

Pediatrics

journal_title

Pediatrics

authors

Maytal J,Bienkowski RS,Patel M,Eviatar L

subject

Has Abstract

pub_date

1995-09-01 00:00:00

pages

413-6

issue

3 Pt 1

eissn

0031-4005

issn

1098-4275

journal_volume

96

pub_type

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