Persistent orthostatic headache without intracranial hypotension: which treatment?

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Orthostatic headache can be the leading symptom of intracranial hypotension, however, not all orthostatic headaches are due to cerebrospinal fluid leaks and these forms can be a clinical problem, especially for treatment. Aim of this study was to review patients with persistent orthostatic headache in whom a detailed head and spinal MRI follow-up did not reveal any sign of intracranial hypotension and to evaluate which treatment can be considered the first choice. Patients admitted to our headache center for evaluation of persistent orthostatic headache and followed after first admission with clinical and neuroradiological controls were systematically reviewed. 11 patients (7 M, 4 F) followed in a period lasted from 10 months up to 2 years were studied. Six patients (54, 5 %) reported a MRI performed previously elsewhere with a suspect diagnosis of intracranial hypotension which was not confirmed at MRI at our hospital such as during the radiological follow-up. Three patients (27.2 %) had developed orthostatic headache short after a neck or head trauma with no evidence of neuroradiological pathological signs and two patients (18 %) had a previous history of psychiatric disorder. We administrated antidepressants in five patients, atypical neuroleptic in three patients, association of antidepressant and antipsychotic in one patient and muscle relaxants in two cases. All patients showed a certain improvement of headache in the weeks after introduction of the pharmacological treatment; six (54, 5 %) had pain relief during the follow-up and five (45, 5 %) were pain free at the last clinical control. We found out that patients with the best outcome were the ones treated with antidepressants. Persistent orthostatic headache without any neuroradiological sign of intracranial hypotension is a challenging problem for clinicians. Although the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD-3 beta version) criteria suggests the possibility of epidural blood patch in orthostatic headache without causes, we believe that a pharmacological treatment tailored on each patient should be always considered and antidepressants can be the first choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-155
Number of pages3
JournalNeurological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - May 30 2015


  • Antidepressants
  • Intracranial hypotension
  • Orthostatic headache

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Dermatology
  • Medicine(all)


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