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Child headache diagnosis linked to 'small risk' of serious condition

By Mark Pownall

Children who present with headache are more likely to develop a serious neurological or psychiatric condition in the following year than those who do not, a GP study has found.

But the risk is low, particularly if a diagnosis of migraine, cluster or tension headache has been made.

The findings come from data taken from the UK General Practitioner Research Database of children aged 5-17 who presented to primary care with a headache. The researchers compared this cohort with age, sex and practice matched controls.

There were 48,575 children who presented with headache and 9321 were diagnosed as having primary headache. Just over two thousand more children received a primary headache diagnosis in the following year.

After a headache diagnosis, there was an increased risk of benign and malignant tumours, cerebrovascular disease, primary disorders of raised intracranial pressure and depression in the following year, compared with controls.

After a migraine diagnosis 258 children were on triptan therapy, and 1598 were using propanolol or pizotifen.

Lead researcher Dr David Kernick a GPSI in headache in Exeter said: ‘Although there is an increased likelihood of a serious pathology with headache presentations, the risk is small, particularly if a diagnosis of a primary headache is made.'

Cephalgia 2009; 29(12): 1311-6

Children who present with headache are more likely to develop a serious neurological or psychiatric condition in the following year, the study found Children who present with headache are more likely to develop a serious neurological or psychiatric condition in the following year, the study found

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