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J Headache Pain. 2013 Feb 18;14:14. doi: 10.1186/1129-2377-14-14.

Diagnostic and therapeutic errors in trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias and hemicrania continua: a systematic review.

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Headache Science Center-C, Mondino National Institute of Neurology Foundation, IRCCS, Via Mondino 2, Pavia 27100, Italy.


Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs) and hemicrania continua (HC) are relatively rare but clinically rather well-defined primary headaches. Despite the existence of clear-cut diagnostic criteria (The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd edition - ICHD-II) and several therapeutic guidelines, errors in workup and treatment of these conditions are frequent in clinical practice. We set out to review all available published data on mismanagement of TACs and HC patients in order to understand and avoid its causes. The search strategy identified 22 published studies. The most frequent errors described in the management of patients with TACs and HC are: referral to wrong type of specialist, diagnostic delay, misdiagnosis, and the use of treatments without overt indication. Migraine with and without aura, trigeminal neuralgia, sinus infection, dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction are the disorders most frequently overdiagnosed. Even when the clinical picture is clear-cut, TACs and HC are frequently not recognized and/or mistaken for other disorders, not only by general physicians, dentists and ENT surgeons, but also by neurologists and headache specialists. This seems to be due to limited knowledge of the specific characteristics and variants of these disorders, and it results in the unnecessary prescription of ineffective and sometimes invasive treatments which may have negative consequences for patients. Greater knowledge of and education about these disorders, among both primary care physicians and headache specialists, might contribute to improving the quality of life of TACs and HC patients.

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