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Brain. 2005 Aug;128(Pt 8):1921-30. Epub 2005 May 11.

The clinical characteristics of headache in patients with pituitary tumours.

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  • 1Headache Group, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.


The clinical characteristics of 84 patients with pituitary tumour who had troublesome headache were investigated. The patients presented with chronic (46%) and episodic (30%) migraine, short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT; 5%), cluster headache (4%), hemicrania continua (1%) and primary stabbing headache (27%). It was not possible to classify the headache according to International Headache Society diagnostic criteria in six cases (7%). Cavernous sinus invasion was present in the minority of presentations (21%), but was present in two of three patients with cluster headache. SUNCT-like headache was only seen in patients with acromegaly and prolactinoma. Hypophysectomy improved headache in 49% and exacerbated headache in 15% of cases. Somatostatin analogues improved acromegaly-associated headache in 64% of cases, although rebound headache was described in three patients. Dopamine agonists improved headache in 25% and exacerbated headache in 21% of cases. In certain cases, severe exacerbations in headache were observed with dopamine agonists. Headache appears to be a significant problem in pituitary disease and is associated with a range of headache phenotypes. The presenting phenotype is likely to be governed by a combination of factors, including tumour activity, relationship to the cavernous sinus and patient predisposition to headache. A proposed modification of the current classification of pituitary-associated headache is given.

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