Headaches After Concussion in US Soldiers Returning From Iraq or Afghanistan

Authors

  • Brett J. Theeler MD,

    1. From William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Department of Medicine, Neurology Service, Medical Corps, United States Army, Fort Bliss, TX, USA (B.J. Theeler); Madigan Traumatic Brain Injury Program, Fort Lewis, WA, USA (F.G. Flynn); Madigan Army Medical Center, Department of Medicine, Neurology Service, Medical Corps, United States Army, Fort Lewis, WA, USA (J.C. Erickson).
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  • Frederick G. Flynn DO,

    1. From William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Department of Medicine, Neurology Service, Medical Corps, United States Army, Fort Bliss, TX, USA (B.J. Theeler); Madigan Traumatic Brain Injury Program, Fort Lewis, WA, USA (F.G. Flynn); Madigan Army Medical Center, Department of Medicine, Neurology Service, Medical Corps, United States Army, Fort Lewis, WA, USA (J.C. Erickson).
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  • Jay C. Erickson MD, PhD

    1. From William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Department of Medicine, Neurology Service, Medical Corps, United States Army, Fort Bliss, TX, USA (B.J. Theeler); Madigan Traumatic Brain Injury Program, Fort Lewis, WA, USA (F.G. Flynn); Madigan Army Medical Center, Department of Medicine, Neurology Service, Medical Corps, United States Army, Fort Lewis, WA, USA (J.C. Erickson).
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  • Funding Support: The Comprehensive National Neuroscience Program at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

  • Disclaimer: The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US government.

  • Conflicts of Interest: No conflicts.

C.B.J. Theeler, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Fort Bliss, TX, Department of Medicine, Neurology Service, 5005 N. Piedras, El Paso, TX 79920-5001, USA.

Abstract

(Headache 2010;50:1262-1272)

Objectives.— To determine the prevalence, characteristics, impact, and treatment patterns of headaches after concussion in US Army soldiers returning from a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Methods.— A cross-sectional study was conducted with a cohort of soldiers undergoing postdeployment evaluation during a 5-month period at the Madigan Traumatic Brain Injury Program at Ft. Lewis, WA. All soldiers screening positive for a deployment-related concussion were given a 13-item headache questionnaire.

Results.— A total of 1033 (19.6%) of 5270 returning soldiers met criteria for a deployment-related concussion. Among those with a concussion, 957 (97.8%) reported having headaches during the final 3 months of deployment. Posttraumatic headaches, defined as headaches beginning within 1 week after a concussion, were present in 361 (37%) soldiers. In total, 58% of posttraumatic headaches were classified as migraine. Posttraumatic headaches had a higher attack frequency than nontraumatic headaches, averaging 10 days per month. Chronic daily headache was present in 27% of soldiers with posttraumatic headache compared with 14% of soldiers with nontraumatic headache. Posttraumatic headaches interfered with duty performance in 37% of cases and caused more sick call visits compared with nontraumatic headache. In total, 78% of soldiers with posttraumatic headache used abortive medications, predominantly over-the-counter analgesics, and most perceived medication as effective.

Conclusions.— More than 1 in 3 returning military troops who have sustained a deployment-related concussion have headaches that meet criteria for posttraumatic headache. Migraine is the predominant headache phenotype precipitated by a concussion during military deployment. Compared with headaches not directly attributable to head trauma, posttraumatic headaches are associated with a higher frequency of headache attacks and an increased prevalence of chronic daily headache.

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