Headaches in Patients With Traumatic Lesions of the Cervical Spinal Cord

Authors

  • Egilius L.H. Spierings M.D., Ph.D.,

    1. Headache Section, Division of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital;
    2. Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
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  • Dominic K. Foo M.D.,

    1. Spinal Cord Injury Service, Brockton/West Roxbury VA Medical Center;
    2. Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
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  • Robert R. Young M.D.

    1. Spinal Cord Injury Service, Brockton/West Roxbury VA Medical Center;
    2. Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
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Abstract

SYNOPSIS

We established the occurrence of headache in a group of 20 patients with traumatic transections of the cervical spinal cord. All but two patients had complete sensory lesions at levels varying from C2-3 to C7-8. Only three patients claimed to have no headaches at all although one of them had nuchal pains with fever. Twelve patients had “bladder” or “bowel headaches” or had had them in the past. These headaches were mostly generalized, throbbing or pounding in nature and severe in intensity. They were caused by obstruction of urinary flow and fecal impaction, respectively, and were associated with autonomic dysreflexia. Otherwise the headaches reported by the patients were mild although frequent in four, i.e. once per week or more. These headaches were also mostly bilateral and lasted a relatively short time, i.e. less than one or two hours. The causes of these headaches were nonspecific for the group studied except for stimulation of the body which, however, probably depended on a mechanism similar to that of the bladder and bowel headaches. Migraine, either classic or common, was not reported by any of the patients.

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