Background: Headache in ischemic stroke survivors after the acute stage is incompletely described.
Objective: We aimed to prospectively describe the characteristics of headache and the predictors of headache at the chronic stage after ischemic stroke.
Methods: We conducted a prospective observational cohort study including 102 acute ischemic stroke patients admitted to a Stroke Unit. Patients were interviewed at the acute and the chronic stage (12 months after stroke). Characteristics of those headaches were collected using a previously validated headache questionnaire enabling headache classification following the International Headache Society criteria. Pre-stroke headache history was registered using the same instrument.
Results: Forty-five patients out of 89 with completed follow-up (51%) reported headache at the chronic stage. In most of the patients, headache was sporadic, mild, pressure-like, with a duration of minutes to hours, with characteristics of tension-type headache in 51% (n = 23/45). Headache was a reactivation of pre-stroke headache in 33% (n = 15/45), different from pre-stroke headache in 44% (n = 20/45), and of new-onset in 22% (n = 10/45). Only 1 patient had a new-onset headache at the acute stage that persisted with the same characteristics at the chronic stage. Pre-stroke headache (OR = 5.3; 95% CI [2.01-13.98] P = .001) and female sex (OR = 3.5; 95% CI [1.3-9.4] P = .013) predicted headache at the chronic stage after stroke, controlling for age, severity, and location of stroke.
Conclusions: Headache in ischemic stroke survivors at the chronic stage is more frequent in women and in patients with pre-stroke headache. It is most frequently a headache with different characteristics of the pre-stroke headache and only rarely a new-onset headache starting at the acute stage and persisting at the chronic stage.
Keywords: headache; ischemic; pain; stroke.
© 2020 American Headache Society.
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