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J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2017 May;26(5):1098-1103. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2016.12.026. Epub 2017 Feb 7.

Headache and Treatment of Unruptured Intracranial Aneurysms.

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Department of Neurology, Raúl Carrea Institute for Neurological Research (FLENI), Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Department of Neurology, Division of Critical Care Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
Department of Neurosurgery, Raúl Carrea Institute for Neurological Research (FLENI), Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Department of Neurology, Raúl Carrea Institute for Neurological Research (FLENI), Buenos Aires, Argentina. Electronic address:



The relationship between unruptured intracranial aneurysms (UIAs) and chronic headache and the impact of aneurysm treatment on headache outcome are controversial. The aim of this study was to determine clinical features of a supposedly primary headache in patients with UIA. We also assessed changes in headache characteristics after UIA treatment.


We examined clinical and imaging data of patients in whom a UIA was diagnosed during diagnostic workup of a suspected primary headache. Medical records were reviewed and personal telephone follow-ups were performed after UIA treatment to assess changes in the frequency and intensity of the headache.


Forty-two patients (76%) reported a substantial improvement in headache frequency and intensity after UIA treatment. Forty-five patients (81%) reported a decrease in headache frequency from a median of 8 days/month before treatment to 1 day/month after treatment (95% confidence interval [CI] 81-83, P < .001). The average intensity in an analog pain scale was 7.7 ± 1.6 before treatment and 5.6 ± 2.4 after treatment (P < .001). Higher headache frequency was associated with a greater odd of improvement after treatment (odds ratio 1.12, 95% CI 1.0-1.26, P = .03). No associations were found between the type of headache, type of treatment (endovascular versus surgical), number, size, or localization of the aneurysms and the response to treatment.


The treatment of UIA had a robust beneficial effect on previous headache. Although a "placebo" effect of aneurysm treatment cannot be ruled out, these results suggest a potential association between UIA and certain chronic headaches usually considered to be primary.


Headache; endovascular therapy; intracranial aneurysm; therapeutics

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