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Epilepsia. 2005 Aug;46(8):1241-5.

Characteristics of headache associated with intractable partial epilepsy.

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Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Montreal Neurological Hospital and Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



The association between headache (HA) and epilepsy is well known. However, few previous studies characterized HA types and head sensations (HSens) in large populations of individuals with well-defined forms of epilepsy.


To analyze the incidence of HA in such a group, we compare HA and non-HA patients to identify special predictive factors for HAs or migraine. We also investigate the pathologically verified group for possible correlations with HAs or migraine. One hundred consecutive patients undergoing presurgical evaluation for pharmacologically intractable partial epilepsy were interviewed. For each HA type, we inquired about lateralization, localization, quality of HA, and results of treatment.


Periictal HAs were reported by 47 patients. Of those, 11 had preictal HA (PIHA), and 44 had postictal HA (PostHA). Eight patients had both PIHA and PostHA. Interictal HAs (InterHAs) were reported by 31 patients. Twenty-nine (62%) of 47 patients had frontotemporal HAs. Twenty-five patients had migraine-like HA without aura: 18 (60%) of 30 patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and seven (41%) of 17 with extratemporal epilepsy (ETE). No correlation between pathology and presence of HA was found in 59 pathologically verified patients, except in four who had arteriovenous malformations (AVMs): three had and one did not have HAs. Eighteen patients had, in addition, poorly localized and ill-described HSens other than HAs.


We confirm an association between focal epilepsy and HAs, including migraine without aura. This is true for both TLE and ETE. PIHA and even prodromal HA may be related to the epileptic discharge and may have lateralizing value. This association is not recognized by the current International Headache Society (IHS) classification. The presence of HA and migraine is not related to the underlying epileptogenic pathology except in patients with AVMs.

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