Chronic Daily Headache in Children and Adolescents Presenting to Tertiary Headache Clinics


Address all correspondence to Dr. Jack Gladstein, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Bressler Research Building, Room M-004, 655 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 20101.


Background.—Adults with chronic daily headache often describe a transformation from episodic migraine and partial retention of migrainous features. Although chronic daily headache has not been investigated as carefully in the pediatric population, one study showed a predominance of coexisting daily headache and episodic migraine, without a clear history of transformation.

Objective.—To identify the clinical features of chronic daily headache in children and adolescents, to evaluate the efficacy of current headache classification criteria, and to compare the features of coexistent daily and episodic headaches so as to determine whether they represent separate syndromes or different stages in the “transformation” process.

Design.—We surveyed 189 consecutive patients, 18 years of age or younger, who presented for initial evaluation of daily or near daily headache at one of 9 tertiary headache clinics. Data were collected in semistructured interviews employing a standard questionnaire and analyzed using Statistical Analysis Systems and Stata statistical software computer programs.

Results.—Of the patients enrolled, 70% were female and 87% were white. Mean age was 13.0 ± 3.1 years. Male gender was associated with a higher degree of reported disability. A family history of headache (typically migraine) was described in 79%. Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 5 days per week or more was reported by 44% of patients. The International Headache Society (IHS) criteria failed to classify 64% of patients and criteria proposed by Silberstein et al failed to classify 31% of patients. Participating physicians misclassified patients according to criteria of the IHS and Silberstein et al in one third of cases. Nearly one quarter of patients reported two separate headache types with distinguishing characteristics. “Baseline” headache was present 27.3 ± 4.1 days per month with a mean pain intensity of 5.9 ± 2.1 on a 10-point scale. Superimposed episodic headache occurred 4.7 ± 3.8 days per month with a mean pain intensity of 8.4 ± 1.4, and was more often accompanied by other migrainous symptoms. After logistic regression to control for pain intensity, the only statistically significant difference between the two headache types was a lower prevalence of tension-type head pain with the superimposed headache.

Conclusions.—Our data suggest that rather than having two coexistent headache types, children and adolescents with chronic daily headache have a single syndrome that, in many cases, will paroxysmally worsen and gather migrainous features.