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Rigshospitalet - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital
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Sentinel headache as a warning symptom of ischemic stroke

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  • Elena R Lebedeva
  • Anton V Ushenin
  • Natalia M Gurary
  • Denis V Gilev
  • Jes Olesen
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BACKGROUND: There are no previous controlled studies of sentinel headache in ischemic stroke. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the presence of such headache, its characteristics and possible risk factors as compared to a simultaneous control group.

METHODS: Eligible patients (n = 550) had first-ever acute ischemic stroke with presence of new infarction on magnetic resonance imaging with diffusion-weighted imaging (n = 469) or on computed tomography (n = 81). As a control group we studied in parallel patients (n = 192) who were admitted to the emergency room without acute neurological deficits or serious neurological or somatic disorders. Consecutive patients with stroke and a simultaneous control group were extensively interviewed soon after admission using validated neurologist conducted semi-structured interview forms. Based on our previous study of sentinel headache in transient ischemic attacks we defined sentinel headache as a new type of headache or a previous kind of headache with altered characteristics (severe intensity, increased frequency, absence of effect of drugs) within seven days before stroke.

RESULTS: Among 550 patients with stroke 94 patients (17.1%) had headache during seven days before stroke and 12 (6.2%) controls (p < 0.001; OR 3.9; 95% CI 1.7-5.8). Totally 81 patients (14.7%) had sentinel headache within the last week before stroke and one control. Attacks of arrythmia during seven days before stroke were significantly associated with sentinel headache (p = 0.04, OR 2.3; 95% CI 1.1-4.8).

CONCLUSIONS: A new type of headache and a previous kind of headache with altered characteristics during one week before stroke are significantly more prevalent than in controls. These headaches represent sentinel headaches. Sudden onset of such headaches should alarm about stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Article number(2020) 21:70
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Volume21
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)70
ISSN1129-2377
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 60566346