T2* reduction in patients with acute post-traumatic headache

Cephalalgia. 2022 Apr;42(4-5):357-365. doi: 10.1177/03331024211048509. Epub 2021 Oct 13.


Objectives: Although iron accumulation in pain-processing brain regions has been associated with repeated migraine attacks, brain structural changes associated with post-traumatic headache have yet to be elucidated. To determine whether iron accumulation is associated with acute post-traumatic headache, magnetic resonance transverse relaxation rates (T2*) associated with iron accumulation were investigated between individuals with acute post-traumatic headache attributed to mild traumatic brain injury and healthy controls.

Methods: Twenty individuals with acute post-traumatic headache and 20 age-matched healthy controls underwent 3T brain magnetic resonance imaging including quantitative T2* maps. T2* differences between individuals with post-traumatic headache versus healthy controls were compared using age-matched paired t-tests. Associations of T2* values with headache frequency and number of mild traumatic brain injuries were investigated using multiple linear regression in individuals with post-traumatic headache. Significance was determined using uncorrected p-value and cluster size threshold.

Results: Individuals with post-traumatic headache had lower T2* values compared to healthy controls in cortical (bilateral frontal, bilateral anterior and posterior cingulate, right postcentral, bilateral temporal, right supramarginal, right rolandic, left insula, left occipital, right parahippocampal), subcortical (left putamen, bilateral hippocampal) and brainstem regions (pons). Within post-traumatic headache subjects, multiple linear regression showed a negative association between T2* in the right inferior parietal/supramarginal regions and number of mild traumatic brain injuries and a negative association between T2* in bilateral cingulate, bilateral precuneus, bilateral supplementary motor areas, bilateral insula, right middle temporal and right lingual areas and headache frequency.

Conclusions: Acute post-traumatic headache is associated with iron accumulation in multiple brain regions. Correlations with headache frequency and number of lifetime mild traumatic brain injuries suggest that iron accumulation is part of the pathophysiology or a marker of mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic headache.

Keywords: T2*; anatomical; concussion; imaging; iron; magnetic resonance imaging; migraine; mild traumatic brain injury; structural.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Migraine Disorders*
  • Post-Traumatic Headache* / diagnostic imaging
  • Post-Traumatic Headache* / etiology