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J Ultrasound Med. 2012 Jan;31(1):37-42.

Sonographic evaluation of the greater occipital nerve in unilateral occipital neuralgia.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Logan College of Chiropractic, Chesterfield, MO 63107, USA.



Occipital neuralgia is a headache that may result from greater occipital nerve entrapment. Entrapped peripheral nerves typically have an increase in cross-sectional area. The purpose of this study was to measure the cross-sectional area and circumference of symptomatic and asymptomatic greater occipital nerves in patients with unilateral occipital neuralgia and to correlate the greater occipital nerve cross-sectional area with headache severity, sex, and body mass index.


Both symptomatic and contralateral asymptomatic greater occipital nerve cross-sectional areas and circumferences were measured by a single examiner using sonography in 17 patients. The Wilcoxon signed rank test and Spearman rank order correlation coefficient were used to analyze the data.


Significant differences between the cross-sectional areas and circumferences of the symptomatic and asymptomatic greater occipital nerves were noted (P < .001). No difference existed in cross-sectional area (P = .40) or circumference (P = .10) measurements of the nerves between male and female patients. A significant correlation existed between the body mass index and symptomatic (r = 0.424; P = .045) and asymptomatic (r = 0.443; P = .037) cross-sectional areas. There was no correlation shown between the cross-sectional area of the symptomatic nerve and the severity of Headache Impact Test 6 scores (r = -0.342; P = .179).


We report sonographic evidence showing an increased cross-sectional area and circumference of the symptomatic greater occipital nerve in patients with unilateral occipital neuralgia.

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