Thunderclap Headache in Children and Adolescents

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2022 Mar;26(3):235-239. doi: 10.1007/s11916-022-01020-2. Epub 2022 Feb 15.


Purpose of review: This work aimed to review the epidemiology, clinical criteria, and primary and secondary diagnoses of pediatric thunderclap headache and to compare to adult thunderclap headache.

Recent findings: Thunderclap headache among children aged 6-18 years are rare; this headache presented in 0.08% of the patients admitted to a pediatric emergency department in a tertiary pediatric center. In that recent single-center study, thunderclap was a headache of grade 10 on the pain scale and conferred a benign course. Contrary to adults, in children, most thunderclap headaches are due to either a primary thunderclap headache or another type of primary headache. A number of case reports have attributed pediatric thunderclap to reversible vasoconstriction syndrome and bleeding due to intracranial aneurysm. However, 3-year data from a pediatric emergency department of one center did not find these reasons to be causes of secondary thunderclap headache. This may be due to the rarity of these diagnoses in children compared to adults. Four of the 19 patients with thunderclap headache reported in that single study had secondary thunderclap; the causes were infection in three and malignant hypertension in one. All the patients had a benign course. Although urgent imaging and lumbar puncture are required in the workup of pediatric thunderclap, severe causes are very rare. More research is needed to investigate pediatric thunderclap headache.

Keywords: Adolescents; Benign course; Children; Pain scale; Thunderclap.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Headache / diagnosis
  • Headache / epidemiology
  • Headache / etiology
  • Headache Disorders, Primary* / diagnosis
  • Headache Disorders, Primary* / epidemiology
  • Headache Disorders, Primary* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Syndrome
  • Vasoconstriction