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Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 1989 Dec;22(6):1251-71.

Headache and facial pain associated with head injury.

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  • 1New York Medical College, Valhalla.


Head injury frequently results in headache and at times facial pain. Controversy concerns the relationship of injury in the head and neck area to chronic headache, particularly when no apparent structural traumatic lesion is demonstrable. Neuropathological studies suggest with concussion there is neuronal injury without gross pathology. Closed head injury of seemingly minor degrees may lead to chronic symptoms, often stereotypic, similar to those following concussion, and they have been described by the term post head trauma syndrome or postconcussional syndrome. Headache after head injury in an individual warrants careful medical, neurological, and neuroimaging assessment. The use of neuroimaging has greatly enhanced diagnosis in head-injured patients but has not satisfactorily clarified post head trauma symptoms in the less severely traumatized. Differential diagnosis is critical to avoid missing disabling, progressive, and life-threatening entities. In patients with head trauma neck injury should be sought. The headache may be nonspecific or mimic common nontraumatic headache disorders such as tension, migraine, and cluster. Recovery may include headache, psychological symptoms, and cognitive impairment. Neuropsychological assessment can be helpful in demonstrating deficiencies in mildly impaired individuals and explain the poor response to headache therapy in some patients suggesting more widespread injury. Therapy of head and facial pain follows the careful diagnosis and, if needed, assessment of the psychological status. Surgery, drug therapy, physical modalities, and at times a comprehensive neuropsychological rehabilitation program are necessary. Simple analgesics such as nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents for short-term treatment and tricyclic antidepressants for chronic pain are most often effective in patients without structural damage. More complex medication regimens may include beta adrenergic blockers and monamine oxidase inhibitors. Since many injuries result from motor vehicle accidents, work-related factors, and other instances in which litigation may result, legal elements may be involved. Most often the prognosis is favorable for resolution of symptoms but a small percentage of patients will have persistent symptoms after three years. The notion that litigation prolongs the duration of the illness is not valid. In the past two decades great advances have been made in neurodiagnosis, and parallel therapeutic advances are expected in the near future.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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