Thunderclap headache with orgasm: a case of basilar artery dissection associated with sexual intercourse

J Emerg Med. 2012 Jul;43(1):e43-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2009.08.012. Epub 2009 Oct 8.


Background: Headaches associated with sexual intercourse (coital cephalgia) have many different causes and are often divided in the literature into pre-orgasmic and orgasmic headaches.

Objective: To present a case of orgasmic headache caused by a basilar artery dissection and to present a literature-based guide to the diagnosis and management of patients presenting with headaches related to sexual activity.

Case report: We report the case of a 34-year-old man without significant past medical history who presented to the Emergency Department with two episodes of orgasmic headache caused by basilar artery dissection.

Conclusions: The cause of headaches related to sexual activity range from the benign to the life-threatening. Due to the dynamics of cerebral blood flow during sexual intercourse, basilar artery dissections and aneurysms should be considered in patients with sudden-onset headaches during orgasm. Appropriate brain imaging and, possibly, lumbar puncture may assist in identifying potentially life-threatening causes of coital headaches.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basilar Artery / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Orgasm*
  • Recurrence
  • Vascular Headaches / diagnosis
  • Vascular Headaches / drug therapy
  • Vascular Headaches / etiology*