Life-threatening headaches in children can present in an apoplectic manner that garners immediate medical attention, or in an insidious, more dangerous form that may go unnoticed for a relatively long period of time. The recognition of certain clinical characteristics that accompany the headache should prompt recognition and referral to an institution equipped with neuroimaging facilities, pediatric neurosurgeons, and neurologists. Thunderclap headaches, which reach a peak within a very short period of time, may be the presenting feature of conditions such as arterial dissection, venous sinus thrombosis, and reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome, which can be addressed by specific pharmacological options instituted in an intensive care setting. On the other hand, subacute to chronic headaches that are accompanied by focal neurological signs, such as abducens nerve palsy, restriction of upward gaze, or papilledema, may be indicative of the need for urgent imaging and neurosurgical referral.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health