Overview of diagnosis and management of paediatric headache. Part I: Diagnosis

Aynur Özge, Cristiano Termine, Fabio Antonaci, Sophia Natriashvili, Vincenzo Guidetti, Çiçek Wöber-Bingöl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Headache is the most common somatic complaint in children and adolescents. The evaluation should include detailed history of children and adolescents completed by detailed general and neurological examinations. Moreover, the possible role of psychological factors, life events and excessively stressful lifestyle in influencing recurrent headache need to be checked. The choice of laboratory tests rests on the differential diagnosis suggested by the history, the character and temporal pattern of the headache, and the physical and neurological examinations. Subjects who have any signs or symptoms of focal/progressive neurological disturbances should be investigated by neuroimaging techniques. The electroencephalogram and other neurophysiological examinations are of limited value in the routine evaluation of headaches. In a primary headache disorder, headache itself is the illness and headache is not attributed to any other disorder (e.g. migraine, tension-type headache, cluster headache and other trigeminal autonomic cephalgias). In secondary headache disorders, headache is the symptom of identifiable structural, metabolic or other abnormality. Red flags include the first or worst headache ever in the life, recent headache onset, increasing severity or frequency, occipital location, awakening from sleep because of headache, headache occurring exclusively in the morning associated with severe vomiting and headache associated with straining. Thus, the differential diagnosis between primary and secondary headaches rests mainly on clinical criteria. A thorough evaluation of headache in children and adolescents is necessary to make the correct diagnosis and initiate treatment, bearing in mind that children with headache are more likely to experience psychosocial adversity and to grow up with an excess of both headache and other physical and psychiatric symptoms and this creates an important healthcare problem for their future life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-23
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


  • Childhood
  • Defining features
  • Diagnosis
  • Epidemiology
  • Headache
  • Paediatric headaches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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