Background: The causes of persistent headache following concussion are poorly understood. The objective of this study is to explore analgesic overuse as a potential cause of chronic post-traumatic headache among adolescents referred to a headache clinic following concussion.
Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted of all adolescent concussion patients referred to our pediatric headache clinic over the 16-month period between August 1, 2011, and November 30, 2012. Those patients with chronic post-traumatic headaches of 3-12 months' duration who also met International Headache Society criteria for probable medication-overuse headache were identified. Demographic data, concussion symptoms, and headache features were characterized from the initial evaluation and from follow-up visits.
Results: Of 104 adolescent concussion patients referred during the study period, 77 had chronic post-traumatic headache of 3-12 months' duration. Fifty-four of 77 (70.1%) met criteria for probable medication-overuse headache. Only simple analgesics were overused. Thirty-seven patients (68.5%) had resolution of headaches or improvements to preconcussion headache patterns after discontinuing analgesics; seven (13%) had no change in headaches or worsening of headaches after discontinuing analgesics and 10 (18.5%) did not discontinue analgesics or were lost to follow-up.
Conclusion: Excessive use of analgesics postconcussion may contribute to chronic post-traumatic headaches in some adolescents. Management of patients with chronic post-traumatic headache should include analgesic detoxification when medication overuse is suspected.
Keywords: TBI; adolescent; concussion; medication-overuse headache; pediatric; post-traumatic headache.
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