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Cephalalgia. 2007 Sep;27(9):1050-4. Epub 2007 Aug 3.

Lower cervical disc prolapse may cause cervicogenic headache: prospective study in patients undergoing surgery.

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Department of Neurology, University Duisberg-Essen, Essen, Germany.


In 1983 Sjaastad published for the first time diagnostic criteria for cervicogenic headache. Until now there have been no prospective studies investigating whether cervical disc prolapse can cause cervicogenic headache. Between July 2002 and July 2003 50 patients with cervical disc prolapse proven by computed tomography, myelography or magnetic resonance imaging were recruited and prospectively followed for 3 months. Patients were asked at different time points about headache and neck pain by questionnaires and structured interviews. These data were collected prior to and 7 and 90 days after surgery for the disc prolapse. Fifty patients with lumbar disc prolapse, matched for age and sex, undergoing surgery were recruited as controls. Headache and neck pain was diagnosed according to International Headache Society (IHS) criteria. Twelve of 50 patients with cervical disc prolapse reported new headache and neck pain. Seven patients (58%) fulfilled the 2004 IHS criteria for cervicogenic headache. Two of 50 patients with lumbar disc prolapse had new headaches. Their headaches did not fulfil the criteria for cervicogenic headache. One week after surgery, 8/12 patients with cervical disc prolapse and headache reported to be pain free. One patient was improved and three were unchanged. Three months after cervical prolapse surgery, seven patients were pain free, three improved and two unchanged. This prospective study shows an association of low cervical prolapse with cervicogenic headache: headache and neck pain improves or disappears in 80% of patients after surgery for the cervical disc prolapse. These results indicate that pain afferents from the lower cervical roots can converge on the cervical trigeminal nucleus and the nucleus caudalis.

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