We investigated 429 consecutive patients, aged 5 to 18 (mean: 11.0 +/- 3.1) years, diagnosed with migraine or tension-type headache. The patients underwent either MRI or exclusively clinical follow-up examinations. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed normal findings in 82.3% and structural changes in 17.7%. However, the vast majority of these changes had minimal or no pathological relevance, and a causal relationship to the patient's headache could not be proven in any case. In the non-MRI group, clinical follow-up examinations confirmed the initial diagnosis in all patients and MRI was not required in any of these subjects. In conclusion, our study shows a poor relation between recurrent headache fulfilling the criteria of migraine and tension-type headache and structural changes incidentally detected by MRI. In addition, it suggests that clinical follow-up examinations are reliable. Accordingly, MRI is not required for routine examination of recurrent headache in children and adolescents, but it should be performed in patients with abnormal neurological findings, atypical headache pattern, or significant change of preexisting headache.