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Facial pain in a neurological tertiary care centre – evaluation of the International Classification of Headache Disorders


Prof. Dr Christian Wöber, Department of Neurology, Währinger Gürtel 18–20, A-1090 Wien, Austria. Tel. + 43 14 0400 3117, fax + 43 14 0400 3141, e-mail


The aim of this study was to examine the diagnostic spectrum of facial pain and to evaluate the clinical features relevant to the differential diagnosis in a neurological tertiary care centre. This is the first investigation comparing the first with the second edition of the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD-I, ICHD-II) in consecutively referred patients comprising a broad spectrum of disorders without restricting the inclusion to certain diagnoses. Studying 97 consecutive patients referred for facial pain, we found trigeminal neuralgia or other types of cranial neuralgia in 38% and 39% according to ICHD-I and ICHD-II, respectively; persistent idiopathic facial pain was diagnosed in 27% and 21%, respectively. The proportion of patients who could not be classified was 24% in ICHD-I and 29% in ICHD-II. Six per cent of the patients had cluster headache or chronic paroxysmal hemicrania, the remaining 5% had various other disorders. The agreement between ICHD-I and ICHD-II was very good to perfect. In ICHD-II, sensitivity and specificity were similar to ICHD-I, the specificity and negative predictive value were imrpoved in single features of trigeminal neuralgia, but were widely unchanged in persistent idiopathic facial pain. The number of patients who could not be classified was larger in ICHD-II than in ICHD-I. Modifying the diagnostic criteria for different types of facial pain, in particular changes in the criteria of persistent idiopathic facial pain, might be helpful in reducing the number  of  patients  with  unclassifiable  facial  pain. 

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