Diagnostic delays and mis-management in cluster headache

Acta Neurol Scand. 2004 Mar;109(3):175-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1600-0404.2003.00237.x.


Objectives: Cluster headache is a stereotyped form of primary headache that while common in terms of neurologic illnesses is much less common as a cause of disabling headache than migraine.

Materials and methods: We directly interviewed 230 patients with cluster headache. National support groups contributed 76% and 24% came from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery Headache Clinic.

Results: Seventy-two percent were men and 28% women, giving a male to female (M:F) ratio of 2.5:1. Episodic cluster headache (ECH) was recorded in 79% while 21% had chronic cluster headache (CCH). The mean time to diagnosis has dropped from 22 years in the 1960s to 2.6 years in the 1990s, although the mean number of GPs seen before a diagnosis was made remains at three.

Conclusions: While there has been improvement in the time to diagnosis for cluster headache, a number of physicians will be consulted, and better education is likely to reduce the overall patient suffering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Cluster Headache / diagnosis*
  • Cluster Headache / drug therapy
  • Cluster Headache / epidemiology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • England
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Self-Help Groups
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Specialization
  • Sumatriptan / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists
  • Sumatriptan