Practice parameter: evaluation of children and adolescents with recurrent headaches: report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the Practice Committee of the Child Neurology Society

Neurology. 2002 Aug 27;59(4):490-8. doi: 10.1212/wnl.59.4.490.


Objective: The Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the Practice Committee of the Child Neurology Society develop practice parameters as strategies for patient management based on analysis of evidence. For this parameter, the authors reviewed available evidence on the evaluation of the child with recurrent headaches and made recommendations based on this evidence.

Methods: Relevant literature was reviewed, abstracted, and classified. Recommendations were based on a four-tiered scheme of evidence classification.

Results: There is inadequate documentation in the literature to support any recommendation as to the appropriateness of routine laboratory studies or performance of lumbar puncture. EEG is not recommended in the routine evaluation, as it is unlikely to define or determine an etiology or distinguish migraine from other types of headaches. In those children undergoing evaluation for recurrent headache found to have a paroxysmal EEG, the risk for future seizures is negligible; therefore, further investigation for epilepsy or treatments aimed at preventing future seizures is not indicated. Obtaining a neuroimaging study on a routine basis is not indicated in children with recurrent headaches and a normal neurologic examination. Neuroimaging should be considered in children with an abnormal neurologic examination or other physical findings that suggest CNS disease. Variables that predicted the presence of a space-occupying lesion included 1) headache of less than 1-month duration; 2) absence of family history of migraine; 3) abnormal neurologic findings on examination; 4) gait abnormalities; and 5) occurrence of seizures.

Conclusions: Recurrent headaches occur commonly in children and are diagnosed on a clinical basis rather than by any testing. The routine use of any diagnostic studies is not indicated when the clinical history has no associated risk factors and the child's examination is normal.

Publication types

  • Guideline
  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Headache / diagnosis*
  • Headache / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis
  • Neurologic Examination / standards*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Spinal Puncture
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed