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J Headache Pain. 2012 Nov;13(8):607-13. doi: 10.1007/s10194-012-0485-y. Epub 2012 Sep 27.

Ictal epileptic headache: an old story with courses and appeals.

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NESMOS Department, Faculty of Medicine and Psychology, Child Neurology, Headache Paediatric Center, Paediatric Sleep Disorders, Chair of Paediatrics, Sapienza University, c/o Sant'Andrea Hospital, Via di Grottarossa, 1035-1039, Rome, Italy.


The term "ictal epileptic headache" has been recently proposed to classify the clinical picture in which headache is the isolated ictal symptom of a seizure. There is emerging evidence from both basic and clinical neurosciences that cortical spreading depression and an epileptic focus may facilitate each other, although with a different degree of efficiency. This review address the long history which lead to the 'migralepsy' concept to the new emerging pathophysiological aspects, and clinical and electroencephalography evidences of ictal epileptic headache. Here, we review and discuss the common physiopathology mechanisms and the historical aspects underlying the link between headache and epilepsy. Either experimental or clinical measures are required to better understand this latter relationship: the development of animal models, molecular studies defining more precise genotype/phenotype correlations as well as multicenter clinical studies with revision of clinical criteria for headache-/epilepsy-related disorders represent the start of future research. Therefore, the definition of ictal epileptic headache should be used to classify the rare events in which headache is the only manifestation of a seizure. Finally, using our recently published criteria, we will be able to clarify if ictal epileptic headache represents an underestimated phenomenon or not.

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