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Keywords:

  • headache;
  • hemodialysis;
  • classification;
  • secondary headaches

Objective.—To determine the prevalence and clinical characteristics of headache in patients undergoing hemodialysis and to compare the prevalence of headache prior to and following the beginning of a hemodialysis program.

Background.—About 70% of patients receiving hemodialysis complain of headache. Despite this, headaches have not been well studied in this group of patients.

Methods.—We evaluated a series of patients with chronic renal failure who attended 3 hemodialysis services in a Brazilian town from January of 1998 to December of 1999. Patients with headache were prospectively followed and classified according to the International Headache Society criteria. The headaches were also categorized according to their temporal profile relative to hemodialysis.

Results.—Headache was reported by 87 (70.7%) of the 123 patients studied. Prior to beginning dialysis, 48% had migraine, 19% had episodic tension-type headache, and 8% had both. Headache related to arterial hypertension was the second most frequent headache diagnosis in these patients (25.4%). Fifty patients (57.5%) experienced headache during the session of hemodialysis. Thirty-four were classified as dialysis headache, 7 were classified as migraine, 7 as episodic tension-type headache, and 2 were unclassified. Twenty-four patients (27.6%) reported dramatic improvement of their headaches after the beginning of the dialysis program.

Conclusions.—Headache is common in patients undergoing hemodialysis. Classification of such headaches according to the International Headache society criteria may be difficult.