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Keywords:

  • headache;
  • neurologic abnormalities;
  • computed tomography;
  • developing country;
  • teaching hospital;
  • population

Objective.— To determine the yield of computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain in the evaluation of patients presenting with headache at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH).

Background.— Headache is a pain in the head or upper neck. It is one of the most common locations of pain in the body that leads patients to see a physician. CT scan is invaluable as an imaging tool in assessment of intracranial lesions that may present with headache.

Methods.— The records of all the patients referred from a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings to the radiology department of UPTH with the main complaint of headache for brain (CT) scan were identified. Data extracted include referral source, indication for CT, age, sex, presenting complaint, duration of headache, and CT findings. The data were analyzed using SPSS 14.0 statistical package.

Results.— A total of 80 patients with chronic or recurrent headache met the selection criteria. The age range was 16 to 85 years with a mean of 39.8 ± 14.62 years. There were 36 males and 44 females with male to female ratio of 1 : 1.2. About half of the patients were ≤45 years. Of the total number, 72 (90%) patients had normal CT findings, 2 (2.5%) had cerebral atrophy, 2 (2.5%) had cerebral edema, 2 (2.5%) had intracerebral hematoma while 1 (1.25%) patient each had cerebral infarction and subdural hematoma, respectively. There was no case of brain tumor.

Conclusions.— The yield of correctable abnormalities from routine CT scan of the brain in headache patients with normal neurologic findings is low and does not justify its use in a resource poor country.

(Headache 2010;50:1346-1352)